Sacred Heart Prep’s run of 10 consecutive Central Coast Section girls water polo championships came to an end Saturday in an 8-6 loss to Leland in the inaugural Open Division championship match at Independence High School.
From SHP coach Jon Burke’s point of view, this probably wasn’t the best year to kick off the Open Division era. The Gators were a little on the young side and Leland was very good, beating them for the third time in three tries on the season.
“I’m super proud of the kids, we just came up a little short,’’ Burke said. “Leland is an outstanding team. Our goal was to hold them to seven or less. We almost got it done.’’
The biggest problem was a slow-starting offense for Sacred Heart Prep (21-8). Leland led 4-0 at halftime and extended the lead to 6-0 early in the third quarter.
Freshman Bella Bachler finally got the Gators on the scoreboard with a goal at the 4:55 mark of the third quarter. She scored another one 31 seconds later to make it 6-2.
But Leland (26-3) responded with a pair of goals of its own to go up 8-2. Addi Duvall and Nadia Paquin scored in the final minute of the third quarter as SHP pulled to within 8-4.
Bachler and Claire Kerrigan scored fourth-quarter goals, but it was too little, too late.
“We had trouble scoring the first quarter and a half,’’ Burke said. “We were a little tight. In a game like this you’ve got to come out firing from the start. We kept chipping away but the game has a finite number in it -- 28 minutes.
“It was awesome playing in the Open. We welcome the change.’’
SHP’s season is not over. The CIF NorCal playoffs begin Tuesday.
The Menlo School girls won six CCS championships between 1996 and 2006. But it had been a while since the Knights made it to the finals.
They arrived on Saturday but fell short in a 7-3 loss to Valley Christian.
“For us, going into this game was very foreign,’’ Menlo coach Alana Burgess said. “Our first CCS (championship) appearance in 11 years. I don’t know if we played our best game, but the effort was there 120 percent.’’
After a 1-1 first quarter, Valley Christian took a 3-1 lead at halftime and extended the lead to 5-1 in the third quarter.
Menlo (15-13) gave the Warriors a scare with two goals in the final 1:39 of the quarter by Annie Bisconti and Sarah Donato. Meg Reinstra scored Menlo’s first goal with 2:01 left in the first quarter.
But the Knights were held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
“I’m real hopeful about the next couple of years,’’ Burgess said. “We have a lot of sophomores. We’re trying to change the culture. Eventually we’d like to be in the Open, but next year we want to get back here and win it.’’