By now, the Sacred Heart Prep girls water polo team should be comfortable playing in hotly-contested, pressure-packed contests.
After edging Soquel, 7-6, on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Central Coast Section Open Division tournament, the Gators advance into their 12th consecutive CCS final and will play defending Division I champion Leland (25-3) in Saturday's championship match at Independence High in San Jose at a time to be determined.
It seems fitting that Sacred Heart Prep (21-7) and Leland should meet in the finals of the first water polo Open Division. The Gators are 10-time defending CCS Division II champs.
Leland has beaten SH Prep twice this season, 9-8 and 11-4, the latter on Sept. 9 at the St. Francis tournament.
The Chargers are 19-0 against teams from the CCS, most recently beating St. Francis, 12-5, in Tuesday's semifinal. They have scored at least 10 goals in 24 of their 28 games. SHP and Soquel are two of the teams that held them under 10. Leland has held teams to four or fewer goals 17 times, including against the Gators.
If the score stays close, SH Prep may have the advantage. The Gators have won three straight, all by a goal and all against Open Division competition. To date, SHP is 7-4 against teams in he Open Division and 15-4 against all CCS tournament competition.
In Division II, Menlo School downed Sobrato, 11-4, at Gunn to reach its first CCS title match in 11 years. The Knights (15-12) take on Valley Christian in the finals, also at Independence at a time to be determined.
Menlo is a young team that has grown up quickly under second-year coach Alanna Burgess. The Knights played in the CCS last year for the first time in six years. They lost one senior.
The Warriors (18-11) advanced after beating Aragon, 10-8, in overtime. The Dons beat Menlo during PAL Bay Division play.
Knights junior Meg Reinstra scored twice and had six steals. Senior Sarah Donato added a goal and also had six steals.
Sophomore Annie Bisconti had a team-high four goals and has eight goals in the CCS. She also earned three kickouts.
Senior Gillian Bressie recorded none saves for the Knights, who didn't allow a goal in the third period.
Senior Parker Callender scored twice while junior Mia Rosenblatt and sophomore Sydney Bianchi each added a goal.
The Knights, who led 8-3 entering the fourth period, held off a late Sobrato charge as the Bulldogs scored three times in just over a minute and trailed 9-7 with 3:22 left.
Donato responded with a goal on a long-range shot before assisting on a Bisconti goal with 18 seconds left to seal the victory.
Palo Alto (11-18) saw its season end in the semifinals of the Division I tournament Tuesday, 12-6, to top-seeded Mountain View at Los Altos.
The boys water polo tournament continues Wednesday, with Bellarmine (14-9) and Menlo School (19-6) meeting in one semifinal at 5:30 p.m. at St. Francis and top-seeded Sacred Heart Prep (22-4) taking on the host Lancers (17-8) at 7 in the other.