There was something for everybody on opening day of the Central Coast Section boys water polo tournament in both the Open Division and Division I games played at Menlo-Atherton.
Sacred Heart Prep, the Open Division's top seed, took care of business with a 13-5 victory over Serra to open the afternoon.
SHP goalie Alexander Nemeth
Menlo goalie Josh Poulos
Gunn, the top seed in Division I, beat San Benito 16-5 as Jack Mallery and Aaron Babian each netted six goals.
The Titans (17-11), who were within a game of qualifying for the Open Division, meet fourth-seeded Willow Glen (16-8) at Homestead on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
Menlo School edged Menlo-Atherton, 5-4, in a wild nightcap that produced one of the greatest goalkeeping performances in a long time.
M-A's Noah Smith, doing his best impersonation of the Elongated Man, stopped 20 of the 25 shots he faced, many point blank.
"We know Noah is good but he gets overlooked because of his size," Bears coach Brandon Johnson said. "He's one of the top goalies in the area. He kept us in the game."
Menlo coach Jack Bowen, the former Stanford All-American goalie who literally wrote the book on goalkeeping, was in full agreement.
"He's a phenomenal goalie and he has great energy," Bowen said. "I like watching him warm up because he does so many things. With the exception of one shot my goalie (Josh Poulos, who had nine saves) let in, I thought the goalkeeping tonight was perfect."
When was the last time you heard any coach use the 'P' word? Those guys always think there's room for improvement. Smith received the highest of compliments.
Just think how SHP assistant coach James Frank felt when he had both Smith and Sacred Heart Prep goalie Alexander Nemeth on his summer team at the Stanford water polo club. That team won the 16U national Junior Olympic title and its no surprise the two goalies were named co-MVPs.
Seeing them both in action on Saturday was more than worth the price of admission. Throw in Gunn's Adrian Lee and you'd get no complaints.
Lee flies under the radar because he also happens to be one of America's best youth badminton players.
"He's been a goalie for at least five years," Titans' coach Peter Olson said. "He's a tremendous athlete with quick reflexes. It doesn't take him too long to get into water polo shape. He's a big part of this team."
Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo (19-6) each clinched a spot in the Northern California tournament no matter what happens the rest of the CCS tournament but M-A (16-10) saw its season end. Johnson has no regrets.
"At the end of the day I want to play the best," he said. "Yeah, our season is over but I'd much rather be in the Open Division than play down."
Menlo-Atherton reached the finals of last year's CCS Division I.
Gunn also had the goal of making it into the Open Division but the Titans are playing the cards they've been dealt.
"It still means a lot," Olson said. "We absolutely had making the Open Division our goal but this is not the worst consolation. We still have something to play for and this team is ready to take advantage."
Miller Geschke and Maxwell Patterson each scored twice for the Knights, who took a quick 4-1 lead in the first quarter before M-A made some adjustments. Geschke also had two assists.
(Patterson and Menlo teammates Sam Untrecht, Jayden Kunwar and Noah Housenbold also played for Frank over the summer as did Sacred Heart Prep's Kyle Ballack, James Plaschke, Will Riley and Larsen Weigle)
Chris Lobdell scored twice for the Bears. Nikolas Caryotakis also scored.
In addition to Tsotadze, Andrew Churukian and Weigle each added two goals.
Menlo gets a rubber match with Bellarmine on Wednesday at St. Francis at 5:30 p.m. The teams split their two earlier meetings.