For the Sacred Heart Prep girls water polo team, it's all about getting better. Even with 12 upperclassmen, including four seniors, there's a sense of youth.
The Gators, 10-time defending Central Coast Section Division II champions, are beginning to believe in themselves.
"It was hard at first," SHP senior Addi Duvall said after scoring five goals in the Gators' 15-5 victory over Mountain View on Friday. "We lost three of our best players, seniors who were recruited to play in college. It was hard to develop something after that and we're still growing into what we can be."
Second-seeded Sacred Heart Prep (9-2) beat Burlingame, 11-3, in Friday's earlier game of the Amanda McDonald Tournament and will play Acalanes at 12:15 p.m. in the semifinals Saturday at the Menlo pool.
Third-seeded Acalanes advanced after beating Menlo-Atherton and Mitty. St. Francis meets defending tournament champion Soquel in the other semifinal at 11:05 p.m., also at Menlo.
The Lancers (7-3) topped the Knights (6-6), 10-7, and then edged Castilleja, 6-3. Menlo came back to beat St. Ignatius, 6-4 and Castilleja (7-3) opened with a 12-1 win over the Wildcats. The Monarchs opened with a 6-1 victory over Woodside.
Sacred Heart Prep's only losses to date were to defending CCS Division I champion Leland. With an Open Division this year, the two teams could meet again.
"It's good to those teams early in the season," Duvall said. "Usually we don't meet until the end. But it shows we're still developing and continually working on things."
Coach Jon Burke doesn't mind experimenting through the early season, switching things up to form the best combinations. Duvall, for example, started the year on the perimeter and is now posting up, a more physical position in the water.
"I think it's working better," Duvall said. "And we have a freshman who has really stepped up."
Bella Bachler, who scored four times against the Spartans, is one of three freshmen who have contributed for the Gators.
Eleanor Facey and Alexandra Szczerba have received considerable playing time and sophomore Annabel Facey has stepped into a vital role for SHP.
Add to that junior goalie Nellie McAdams, in her first year as a starter, and it gives the Gators a solid foundation.
Duvall and fellow seniors Lauren Krikorian, Nadia Paquin and Claire Kerrigan are the clear team leaders and, so far, the formula is working.
Duvall added a pair of goals in the win over the Panthers. Eleanor Facey scored three times in each contest and Annabel Facey recorded five on the day. All three freshmen scored against Burlingame. McAdams had 16 saves on the day, while relinquishing time in both contests for Emily Sloat.
Minhee Chung scored four times and Madison Lewis added three goals in Castilleja's victory over SI. Claire Pisani added a pair.
Senior goalie Georgia Lewis recorded 17 saves against St. Ignatius and then thwarted St. Francis 12 times to keep her team in it.
The Gators and Lancers were locked in a defensive struggle most of the way, which included a 1-1 halftime score. Top-seeded St. Francis broke out in third period to take control.
On Thursday, Cooper McKenna scored three times, Zoe Banks played another outstanding game in goal and Gunn remained undefeated in SCVAL De Anza Division play with a 10-3 victory over Los Altos.
The Titans (7-4, 5-0) play at Los Gatos (8-1, 5-0) in the first duel for first place in the league.
Should Gunn come out slow against the Wildcats, it's no big deal. The Titans tend to spar with their opponents through the first period before making adjustments.
"This is a cerebral team," Gunn coach Mark Hernandez said. "They like to make good adjustments during the game. Los Altos is a very good team and played good defense. You have to play well against any of these teams."
Kara Jacobsen, Kayla Lin and Elizabeth Miksztal each scored twice against the Eagles.
Palo Alto suffered a tough, 6-5, loss against host Homestead on Thursday.
Boys water polo
Palo Alto (3-5, 3-3) dropped an 8-7 decision to host Homestead on Thursday. Matthew Nemeth scored twice to lead the Vikings.
Gunn (5-4, 4-2) dropped a 10-9 decision to visiting Los Altos.
Castilleja won a hotly-contested match from visiting Eastside College Prep, 26-24, 22-25, 26-24, 25-16, on Thursday night.
Lexi Stull recorded 13 kills and Talia Kertsman added 10. Grace Lee had 15 digs.
Palo Alto (7-3, 2-1) beat Lynbrook, 5-2, on Thursday as Anuva Banwasi and Isa Cossio led the way with victories at No3. 3 and 4 singles.
Menlo School (6-4, 2-0) beat Crystal Springs Uplands, 7-0, with Addie Ahlstrom and Lindsay Ball winning, 6-0, 6-0, at Nos. 1 and 2 singles.
The Knights host Sacred Heart Prep on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in a West Bay Athletic League Foothill Division showdown.
Palo Alto improved to 8-0 on the season after beating Lynbrook, 155-181, in a SCVAL match. The Vikings were remarkably consistent through the lineup, with Stephanie Yu leading the way with a 27 and Priya Baksahi with a 29.
Katherine Sung (32), Jasmine Choi (33), Marine Mata (34) and Madison Pineda (34) followed closely behind.