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Trophy laden season brings accolades for fall sports

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The boy's pose after placing second at state championships.

The boy's pose after placing second at state championships.

Photo Courtesy of Robyn Berry

Photo Courtesy of Robyn Berry

The boy's pose after placing second at state championships.

Otis Lyons, Sports Editor

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Many knew of the potential the fall teams possessed, yet few would have correctly predicted just how deep in the postseason they would go. Of the eight varsity sports, five teams made postseason runs, each of whom were successful in NCS.

Last year, both water polo teams made it to the championship game of the NCS playoffs, and both cross country squads finished in the top five of the sectional meet. However, those outcomes look mediocre compared to the five teams who proceeded past NCS this time around.

The school amassed eight trophies, including an unprecedented nine hour span on Saturday, Nov. 18, when cross country and water polo earned a NorCal championship, a NorCal semifinal run, an NCS championship and an NCS second place.

 

Water polo overcomes barriers, continues winning dynasty

The usually dominant water polo squads surpassed previous team’s success. Following an undefeated MCAL campaign, both teams hurtled through league playoffs.

After taking 13-4 and 13-6 victories over the Tam boys and Marin Catholic girls, respectively in the MCAL title game, both teams acquired the two seed for NCS playoffs.

Although league dominance and high rankings in the section was a typical position for both the boys and girls to be in, they rewrote history in the NCS playoffs.

Of the 14 sectional tournaments in boys and girls water polo this decade, nine of the schools’ teams qualified for the semifinals, yet no pennants had been won. This year, both squads upset fellow super teams to win the title.

The boys defeated Campolindo, who won the 2013 and 2015 championships, while the girls beat number one seeded Carondelet 8-4 on the same day.

Photo Courtesy of Rod Miles
The girl’s team celebrate after winning the NCS championship

Coincidentally, the 2017 season marked the first year of NorCal water polo playoffs, introducing an eight team tournament that invited two teams from each NCS bracket, along with sides from the Sac-Joaquin Section, Central Coast Section and Central Section.

The boy’s team picked up the one seed after going undefeated in league and postseason play, while the girls picked up the three seed behind Saint Francis and Sanger.

After winning the initial quarterfinal match, the girls fell to Sanger 8-4 in the semifinals, while the boys capped off an historic run by topping number five Buchanan 7-4, and defeating number two Sacred Heart Prep 8-6 to claim the inaugural NorCal pennant.

 

Cross country programs have record year, few will graduate

While taking both NCS titles and a NorCal championship may be a high target to reach, the cross country teams followed in water polo’s footsteps. Lead by a top five who will all return next year, the cross country boys cruised through the league dual meets, going 9-0 in MCAL.

Placing five in the top 10 to win the MCAL championships, the boys didn’t slow down for the NCS title meet, if anything they improved. Lead by sophomore Owen Wolford, the top four runners placed third through sixth, all within seven seconds of each other at the end.

“Since June we have been spending so much time together,” said junior Cooper McCarthy, a top five runner. “During NCS, when they saw a pack of four Drake runners all together up front, you could hear the surprise of people in the stands.”

Hopeful of a top five finish at state championships, the boys ended their campaign with a second place result, the highest finish in school history; in 2000, the boys finished seventh.

“States was really the icing on the cake,” McCarthy said, “We ran a smart race, and I’m so happy it all came together.”

State championships, held in Fresno in the heat of the day, are always going to be tough for a Northern California team, while Southern California races had been in excess of 90 degree heat all year.

The team canceled out that SoCal advantage by running a smart race, placing sixth at the first mile, before improving to fourth in the second. Finally, in the last stretch of the race, the team made up the rest of the distance on faltering runners, finishing behind only Cathedral High School.

“I’m really proud of the boys,” McCarthy said, “It started off as a dream in Tahoe in the summer, and we completed all of our goals. I can’t wait to see what else we can do next year.”

The girls cross country squad also defied expectations, returning to the state championships for the first time since 2014, when Anais Nagle, Shannon McKillop-Herr, and Zoe Miller, who finished their senior seasons this year, competed as freshmen.

Finishing the league season 8-1, the girls surprised Tam (9-0) in the championship meet, with top 10 finishes from Miller and junior Finleigh Levinson. Freshman Kyla Seely was influential to the win with a 14th place finish, enough to cap the first girl’s pennant since 1980.

“The biggest takeaway from the season is that the girls know now what it takes to compete with top teams,” head coach Rich Miller said. “2018 Drake girls cross country has a chance to repeat the successes of 2017.”

The girls continued an impressive campaign, with a second place at NCS behind Piedmont. Led this race by an improving Seely, who placed 11th, the team earned 98 points, barely edging Bishop O’Dowd (100 points) for second place.

Senior Jenevieve Escabar finished 32nd, fifth on the team, an influential result that would help win the race for second. Freshman Jackie McKillop-Herr completed the top seven with a 50th place finish, joining Seely as part of an exciting future for the girls.

The team took home 16th place at states; Seely leading with a 46th place finish, the 11th best freshman in the race.

Photo Courtesy of Nate Severin
The girl’s team poses after placing 16th at state championships.

The top seven will graduate three seniors: McKillop-Herr, Escabar, and Miller. While they have been key to the success this year, the senior’s exit should make way for a new core group, including juniors Levinson and Noel Rockwell, along with freshmen Seely, who improved from the eighth runner to the first runner by the end of the season, and Jackie McKillop-Herr.

 

Volleyball flies high despite injury, nets NorCal berth

Joining the water polo and cross country teams in postseason success is the girl’s volleyball team.

After an 8-5 non-league record and a 7-5 MCAL mark, the team entered the playoffs as the fifth seed in league. Most of this was done without injured four year captain Kirsty Star, the team’s only senior.

A critical sweep of San Marin in the MCAL first round gave way to a meeting with nationally ranked rivals Marin Catholic, who would proceed to win the MCAL and NCS championships, along with an Open Division state semifinal run.

The first round victory to San Marin was important in the outcome of the team’s NCS seed; taking third behind Marin Catholic and Analy, the team dispatched both Eureka and similar rivals San Marin to reach the semifinals.

“The season was one of the best that the team has had in a few years. We got really far and everyone worked really hard to get there,” said junior Jenna Grigsby.

Upstart 10th placed Alhambra defeated the team in a thrilling 3-2 match in the semifinals, but the top four finish was enough for a place in the NorCal playoffs for the first time since 2011.

The first round of NorCal was against San Francisco based Lincoln, who ended the team’s underdog run at the first round of the state level, a feat last surpassed in 2011. Lincoln, who was pushed to a 29-27 third set by the Pirates, went on to win NorCal championships and will face Point Loma in the championships on Dec. 2.

The coming years show promise for the girls, as only Star will be graduating.

“Next year we will have all the players from this year’s team,” said Grigsby, “The majority of the team will be seniors, and we have a chance to go far in states.”

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Trophy laden season brings accolades for fall sports