Menlo boys top M-A, grab control of PAL water polo race | News | Palo Alto Online |


Menlo boys top M-A, grab control of PAL water polo race


The Menlo School boys took a big step toward taking back the PAL Bay Division water polo title they lost to rival Menlo-Atherton last season by defeating the Bears, 11-8, on Wednesday in the Knights' pool.

Both teams came into the showdown undefeated in league, but the Knights left 3-0 (7-6 overall) and the Bears 2-1 (9-5). The winner of this matchup usually claims the league crown. Regular-season outcomes will decide the PAL champ.

Woodside is 4-0, but still has to play both M-A and Menlo.

"It's a bit odd to have such an important, impactful game at this point in the season," said Menlo head coach Jack Bowen. "We've essentially been preparing for this game for the past two weeks."

Both teams came out evenly matched, playing to a 2-2 tie after the first quarter. Menlo Atherton then capitalized on a few outstanding shots and pulled ahead, leading at one point in the third quarter, 6-3, on Alex Hakanson's fourth of his five goals. The Bears' lead was still three at 7-4 when Jack Beasley found the net with an assist from Hakanson.

With the game on the line, the tide turned in Menlo's favor as the Knights outscored the Bears, 7-1, the rest of the way as Menlo's defense blanked M-A in the final period and clamped down on Hakanson and Christian Huan on the wings after they combined for M-A's first five goals.

"We made a big change with that at half time on our split/drop defense," Bowen said. "We made that change at half, as well as tweaking our man-up and man-down situations."

Menlo senior co-captain James Thygesen tied the match at 8 with 4:29 left before freshman Sam Untrecht scored his third goal for a 9-8 lead with 2:16 to play. Menlo senior Chris Xi tallied his first goal for insurance at 10-8 with 1:44 remaining before Thygesen finished off a four-goal game with 37.1 seconds to play.

"All I could say to our boys after this game is how inspired I was by them," said Bowen. "They had the chance to give up. We were running our system exceptionally well early on and our shots just weren't going. Theirs were. We made some changes and then I stepped back to see what would happen. I could see them believing in our process, and in each other.

"It was truly inspiring to watch them play together and, instead of giving up when it got tough, they stepped up and supported each other and truly believed . . . That was one of the most inspiring games I've been a part of. I'm a really proud coach at this moment."

Menlo sophomore Miller Geschke was charged with defending the center position and yet, offensively, led the team with five assists. Senior goalkeeper Will Crouch finished the game with 11 saves, many coming at clutch times during Menlo's game-ending 8-2 run. Bowen said Crouch played his best game of the season.

Huhn added two goals for the Bears while sophomore goalie Noah Smith had a sensational block and was solid in his debut against the Knights.

Menlo School improved its overall record against Menlo-Atherton to 29-5 during Bowen's 16 years as head coach.

Menlo School faces off against East Bay power De La Salle on Friday (5:30 p.m.) during the Knights' annual homecoming game. Three weeks ago, Menlo topped De La Salle, 9-8.

While Bowen would like to start Brazilian transfer Tiago Bonchristiano in goal against De La Salle, Crouch may have earned another start with his standout effort against the Bears.

Bonchristiano, the starting goalie on the Brazilian junior national team, had to sit out the normal transfer time plus one match after playing in a season opener against St. Francis before he was eligible. Menlo had to forfeit that match and Bonchristiano had to miss the M-A showdown as a penalty.

In another PAL showdown, Castilleja remained perfect in the Bay Division following an 8-2 victory over the Menlo-Atherton girls at Menlo School on Wednesday.

When the teams met last season, Castilleja's victory then earned the Gators their first-ever PAL Bay Division title. On Wednesday, Castilleja merely moved closer to a second straight crown as it improved to 4-0 (8-4 overall).

Goalie Georgia Lewis came up big with 15 saves for the Gators while Claire Pisani tallied four goals to lead the offense. Celia Aldrete, Madison Lewis, Maddie Macdonald and Jenna Kotcher all added single tallies for coach Brenda Villa's squad as M-A fell to 2-2 in league (4-9 overall).

It was showdown time in the West Catholic Athletic League, as well, with the Sacred Heart Prep boys and girls both toppling rival St. Francis in Mountain View.

The SHP boys (3-0, 7-2) pulled away from a close match with four goals in the fourth period. Senior Finn Banks led the way with four goals while junior Jackson Enright and sophomore Alex Tzotadze each added two. Goalie J.C. Marco finished with nine saves.

Tzotadze gave the Gators a 5-4 lead with 4:07 left in the third period and SHP never trailed after that. The Lancers got to within 7-6 on a goal by Nathan Puentes in the fourth period, but Banks answered 14 seconds later for an 8-6 lead.

SHP had two more power-play goals than St. Francis and had a penalty shot.

Sacred Heart Prep will be in Irvine this weekend for the annual S & R Sport Tournament. The Gators open Friday against Long Beach Wilson at the William Woollett Aquatic Center. Other top teams entered include Harvard-Westlake, Foothill, Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor. The 16-team tournament featurs eight NorCal and eight SoCal squads.

In an earlier game Wednesday at St. Francis, the SHP girls (3-0, 10-3) maintained their hold on first place in the WCAL with a 9-6 triumph.

The Gators jumped out to a 3-0 first-quarter lead, led by 5-3 at the half and 7-5 after three periods. Maddy Johnston led SHP with three goals with fellow junior Layla Waters adding two. Sophomore Nadia Paquin, who transferred in from Menlo-Atherton, made her debut with SHP and tallied two goals.

-- Menlo Athletics contributed

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4 people like this
Posted by check your stats!
a resident of Woodside
on Oct 8, 2015 at 11:43 am

Both Woodside and Menlo are undefeated in PAL, Woodside is leading with a 4-0 record, follow by Menlo with a 3-0 (Menlo already had a bye week, while Woodside has his bye this coming week.)

Still the headline on the sport page of the Alamanac reads, "Menlo boys alone in first after topping rival M-A in showdown". Menlo is not alone in first, they are in good company.

Congratulation to both Woodside and Menlo!

1 person likes this
Posted by PoloFan
a resident of Woodside
on Oct 8, 2015 at 1:19 pm

3 goal victory. Pretty substantial. Menlo r champions outright yet again.

WSide will most likely lose to both MA and Menlo by 10 goals as they have past years. This writer seems 2 know what hes talking about in writing it the way he did

2 people like this
Posted by Polofan2
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 8, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Menlo and Menlo-Atherton are the best two teams in the league, but claiming in the title "Menlo boys alone in first" does not reflect the current standings:

Rank School Win Loss
6 MILLS 0 3

Web Link

Woodisde is mathematically into CCS.

2 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Woodside
on Oct 8, 2015 at 2:04 pm

PoloFans 1 & 2 make great points. Its tru that Wside is currently tops in the league w/ record of 4-0. And its also tru that both MA and Menlo will beat Wside badly. Writers bias prob got in the way here. Menlo will win league easily with convincing win over MA

2 people like this
Posted by FJC
a resident of Woodside
on Oct 8, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Agreed, Jeff. And as the article's title states, Menlo just grabbed control of the PAL water polo race. Beating MA gives Menlo control. Menlo will probably play their second team vs Woodside and beat them while starters stay home and condition. Of course Woodside has a better record but they sure don't have "control" of the PAL water polo race. Menlo does.

Like this comment
Posted by Polofan2
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 8, 2015 at 3:03 pm

The title has been updated, it was "Menlo boys alone in first after topping rival M-A in showdown", now it is
"Menlo boys top M-A, grab control of PAL water polo race" that better reflects reality.

2 people like this
Posted by PoloFan3
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 8, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Nobody is contesting the fact that Menlo and M-A are the best teams in the league.

That said, Woodside just moved up this year from Ocean to Bay and did incredibly well in their first year in the upper division. Nice that the Almanac is paying attention and corrected the title. And did a story on them last week. Very exciting to see a new team grow.

Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 8, 2015 at 7:32 pm

The Almanac has no control of these stories. All the sports comes from the Palo Alto Weekly. The Almanac is part of the newspaper's chain but has no actual sports section. The Weekly produces all the copy, photos and results. It has been this was for more than 20 years.

1 person likes this
Posted by M-A Fan
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 9, 2015 at 7:18 am

Actually it was not a convincing win -- M-A scored first and was ahead the whole game (by as much as 3 at one point). Looking forward to the PAL tournament game.

2 people like this
Posted by Water Polo Fan
a resident of Woodside
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:13 am

Happy to see that MA fans thought it was close. I know the feeling. But a 3 goal victory in a League Championship game at that level is actually pretty convincing regardless of who scored first, second, third, etc. Conditioning and making changes to a game plan are all a part of an entire game. I didn't even see it but know sports and know water polo. After all the hype now I'm wishing I had seen it, even if it ended up not too close in the end.

Like this comment
Posted by Bears
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 9, 2015 at 1:28 pm

While we are questioning the data of the article, is that stated overall record of Menlo over Menlo Atherton of 29-5 really correct or was it made up too? And where did that data come from?

1 person likes this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2015 at 11:50 am

To Bears: the 29-5 mark is correct.......stats are readily available as is information, if one does his homework. Where do you think the writer got the info on the Menlo goalie who had been ineligible? He has been covering the local area for decades.

Like this comment
Posted by Bears
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 13, 2015 at 9:20 am

THis all seems a bit unfair then. Why would a team of Menlos caliber be in a league with MA? Given that this is the correct record it seems that MA should be in a lower league so theyd have a chance to win league sometimes too. It cant always just be Menlo beating up on MA. HOws that good for either school?

2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 13, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Menlo applied to be in the league and the league accepted them. If the league didn't want the competition, then they would not have confirmed Menlo's membership.

The PAL has two divisions - Bay and Ocean. Bay is the "upper league" and Ocean is the "lower league". Teams move up or down (relegation) after each season. And for the record, the Menlo girls team is in the lower/Ocean division.

PAL Bay receives 3 automatic bids to the CIF-CCS playoffs. M-A will be just fine.

As the saying goes, you have to beat the best to be the best.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 12:35 pm

"Beat the best to be the best." Well put, CPD. That's a silver lining for MA: by having Menlo in their league they have something to aspire to. Especially with a record of 29-5, it gives MA a chance to raise their game and strive for where Menlo is instead of remaining complacent. Almost as though Menlo's schooling them in water polo.

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