by Craig Wentz
Saratoga, CA – The competition continues to improve, but so does the Menlo School girls’ water polo program, which is setting the standard for excellence in the Central Coast Section. Top-seeded Menlo (27-4) captured its third CCS crown in the tournament’s four-year existence by whipping No. 3 St. Francis, 6-3, at West Valley College in Saratoga.
Utilizing balanced scoring and a smothering pressure defense, Menlo left no doubt it was the class of CCS. And to prove the strength of the Knights’ program in the past four years, their three titles have come under three different coaches.
“The championship has been our goal and we were ready for this game,” said second-year coach Kyle Utsumi. “It’s a culmination of hard work and has been a two-year process.”
Menlo won the first two CCS girls’ water polo titles in the spring and fall of 1996, only to be eliminated by Castilleja in last year’s semifinals.
Against talented St. Francis (25-6), Menlo broke open a 1-1 battle after halftime as senior Rachael Saal tallied two quick goals in the span of 19 seconds early in the third quarter to give Menlo a 3-1 cushion. The pair of counter-attacking goals, sparked by long passes that caught St. Francis napping in transition, were the key to the match and deflated the Lancers.
“Our defense sparked the offense,” said Utsumi. “We always want to push it in the third quarter and tried to be aggressive.” Menlo’s tenacious defense was led by junior hole defender Courtney Welsh and senior goalie Megan Hubbs, who sparkled in the cage with 16 saves. The high-scoring Lancers made just three of 25 shots in the match and committed 12 turnovers.
From Palo Alto Weekly