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M-A takes big step toward ending Menlo streak

 

By Keith Peters

Palo Alto Online Sports

While there are still a handful of league matches remaining, the Menlo-Atherton boys' water polo team all but wrapped up its first PAL Bay Division championship in 17 years following an 11-10 victory over visiting Menlo School on Wednesday.

"Menlo usually wins the league," said M-A coach Dante Dettamanti. "This is pretty much the championship game."

The Bears last won the league crown in 1995. Menlo went on to win the next 16 straight titles, and 17 in the past 18 years, and was hoping to add to that impressive streak. Menlo coach Jack Bowen was seeking his 12th straight title after taking over the program in 2000.

All the streaks moved closer to coming to an end when M-A grabbed an 11-8 lead when sophomore John Knox scored with 3:21 left in the game. The Bears still held the three-goal margin with 2:00 left to play until Menlo's Nick Bisconti took charge. He made it 11-9 despite having M-A's Harrison Holland-McCowan draped on him, then added another tally with 1:03 remaining -- his fifth goal of the match.

Menlo-Atherton missed a scoring opportunity, but grabbed the rebound and called time. The Bears ran off the shot clock, giving the ball back to Menlo for one final shot that drew oohs and aahs from the crowd but missed.

Menlo-Atherton (2-0, 8-7) now has control of the PAL race while Menlo (1-1, 8-6) has to hope for the Bears to be upset in order to share the league crown.

M-A senior Morgan Olson-Fabbro scored six goals and assisted on the eventual winner by Knox, who tallied twice. Olson-Fabbro missed practices last week with a minor case of mononucleosis and still wasn't at full strength. Still, he scored five of the Bears' first six goals while putting M-A on top 3-2 before tying the match at 4, 5 and 6 in addition to giving his team a 9-7 lead in the fourth period.

Evan McClelland scored on a lob for a 10-7 advantage before Menlo senior David Rozenfeld scored with 5:00 remaining for a 10-8 game. Junior goalie Peter Berquist played well for the Bears, blocking a one-on-one situation right in front of the goal in the second quarter to preserve a 4-4 match.

Menlo still holds an overall record of 27-4 against Menlo Atherton during Bowen's 13-year tenure, only one of those losses coming in league play.

"It was a really well-played games by both teams and I'm very proud of all of the players in our program," said Bowen.

Seven of Menlo's 10 goals came from a sophomore and freshman -- Bisconti and Chris Xi. Sophomore goalie Spencer Witte played well while recording nine saves. Senior captain Alexander Carlisle led the team in assist and steals.

In the West Catholic Athletic League, Sacred Heart Prep moved into sole possession of first place following an easy 18-1 dunking of visiting Mitty on Wednesday. Former co-leader St. Francis, meanwhile, lost to Bellarmine, 7-6.

The Gators (4-0, 13-3) got three goals each from Scott Jollymour and Zach Churukian while goalie Will Runkel came up with 11 saves. SHP jumped out to a 10-0 halftime lead. Bret Hinrichs, Michael Holloway, Nelson Perla-Ward, Alex Swart and Chris Hinrichs all scored twice for SHP, which was coming off a third-place finish in the S & R Sport Tournament in Irvine on Saturday. It was the Gators' best finish ever in the event.

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