Alexander Nemeth made the most of his opportunities while waiting to take over as goalie for the Sacred Heart Prep boys' water polo team this year. He worked hard, he practiced hard and now he's playing hard.
Taking over for prep All-American JC Marco, now at Pepperdine, Nemeth gives the Gators another strong piece of the puzzle. He recorded 11 saves on Senior Night Tuesday night as host Sacred Heart Prep beat Menlo School, 14-8, in a nonleague contest that featured two of the top teams, not just in Northern California but in the state.
In fact, Sacred Heart Prep (12-2) can lay claim to being among the best in the nation after winning the title of the S&R Sport Tournament held at UC Irvine over the weekend. The Gators became just the second northern California team to win the championship in the 24-year history of the event.
You didn't have to tell Nemeth this team, with 10 seniors on the roster, was something special. He's played with and against them for years.
"I trained on the varsity level. I knew what to expect," Nemeth said. "I knew I had to be the guy and all the pressure that goes with that. The opportunity I get to block some of the best shooters in California is invaluable."
Nemeth is speaking about practices and facing his own shooters.
"This team is so together and we want to continue to improve," he said. "It's an honor to play with these guys. I wouldn't want to play with anyone else."
Nemeth is a proven winner. Over the summer he played with the U16 Stanford club team that claimed its second consecutive national Junior Olympic title and also participated in a summer league, with most of his Gators teammates, that placed third in the nation.
"I learned that we can compete with any team," Nemeth said. "It was a great experience to work with these guys who are pulling for each other. We're coming after the Central Coast Section, Northern California and beyond. We're looking at first place."
Larsen Weigle and Walker Seymour each scored three goals for SH Prep. Alex Tsotadze and Chris Rowland each added a pair of goals. Andrew Churukian added a goal and recorded four assists.
Sam Untrecht led Menlo (12-4) with four goals and an assist. Jayden Kunwar scored twice and goalie Josh Poulos, who took over for UC Santa Barbara goalie Tiago Bonchristiano, had eight saves.
"The goal is to be your best and you do that by playing the best," Knights coach Jack Bowen said. "We were within 6-4 and we need to remember that. We can't forget we're a good team too."
The Stanford Junior Olympic team featured a mixture of players from Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo School, along with a sprinkling of Bellarmine, St. Francis and Menlo-Atherton players. Nemeth shared time with M-A's Noah Smith and they were named co-MVPs of the JO's.
"He could have played with 95 percent of the teams in CCS the past two years," Gators coach Brian Kreutzkamp said. "But practicing with these guys at the varsity level got him ready. He learned from the guys before him and now he's getting his dues."
The Gators don't have much time time to relax. They open play in the North-South Challenge, hosted by Sacred Heart Prep, on Friday at 1:15 p.m. against Cathedral Catholic in what is shaping up to being a quality tournament.
"We do great over the weekend, win the title and 24 hours later play Menlo," Kreutzkamp said. "In another 48 hours we open in the North-South Challenge, which has nine of the top 10 teams in the nation. It's a demanding schedule and will be tough physically and mentally. But we want to play the hardest tournaments. We have a deep bench and the guys are in great shape."
Menlo opens the Challenge against Harvard-Westlake at 12:40 p.m.
"This is a year which Northern California can hang with Southern California," Kreutzkamp said.
Oaks Christian, the only team to beat SHP this year to date, is also in the tournament.