Los Altos girls water polo team wins back-to-back CCS crowns

Courtesy of Katie Tasman
The Los Altos High girls water polo team commemorates its CCS final win. Front: Sydney Lee. Middle, from left: Alesia Piercy, Madi Musso, Kayley Gould, Cynthia Yee. Back: Assistant coach Danny Buzzetta, Silke Tuyls, May Jiang, Sydney Johnsen, Emily Zhu, Olivia Cairns, Naomi Barkan, Shreya Juneja, Emma Sayar, Alex Warren, assistant coach Seth Tasman and head coach Katie Tasman.

A year after winning the school’s first Central Coast Section title in girls water polo, Los Altos High has won a second – again beating rival Mountain View in the final.

That doesn’t make last week’s 8-6 win any less special to coach Katie Tasman, who acknowledged the challenges that come with defending a championship.

“This year’s title means just as much, if not more, than last year’s,” she said. “Going into this season, we wanted to make sure that everyone was focused on what we wanted to accomplish this season and wasn’t living in the past.”

That past included Julia Santos and Brynn Walther, Los Altos’ leading scorers last season. Both graduated in the spring. While Tasman said losing those two “huge forces” made her “anxious to see how the athletes would adjust going into this year,” her confidence in them never wavered.

“I never doubted the talent we had coming into this season and always knew we were just as talented as last year’s team,” the coach said. “The focus was getting this group of girls to see it in and for themselves.”

After placing third in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division (one spot ahead of Mountain View), the Eagles landed the top seed in the CCS Division I playoffs with a 14-12 record. They beat No. 8 Woodside 6-4 in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Presentation 7-4 in the semifinals before meeting No. 3 Mountain View in the Nov. 12 final at Independence High in San Jose.

Like last year, Los Altos (17-12 overall) got off to a fast start against the Spartans (18-11). The Eagles led 3-2 after the first quarter and 5-2 at halftime thanks to “our strong defensive focus and pushing our counterattacks,” Tasman said.

Los Altos maintained its three-goal lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Eagles only scored once in the final quarter, but they held Mountain View to two goals.

“The key to beating MV was to come out and play a very strong defensive game,” the coach said. “MV has some very strong talent on their team and is always ready to play whenever we match up against them, so we wanted to make sure to get the right matchups and that help was there whenever we needed it.”

Tasman added that sophomore goalie Shreya Juneja “really stepped up” – not only in the CCS final (16 saves), but since she replaced injured senior Alex Warren early in the season.

Then there was Cynthia Yee, who excelled on both ends of the pool in the final. The senior – who scored the winning goal in last year’s 9-8 win over the Spartans – “had a phenomenal game for us,” Tasman said. She notched a team-high four goals and three steals.

Freshman Hannah Mendenhall scored four goals to lead Mountain View.

LA boys fall in final

The top-seeded Los Altos boys narrowly lost last week’s Division I title game. No. 3 Palo Alto edged the Eagles 13-12.

“We played a great game against Palo Alto,” coach Seth Tasman said of the Nov. 12 loss at Independence. “Even though we were down three goals with about five minutes left in the game, the boys never gave up. We continued to fight and made a great comeback.”

Los Altos (16-13) nearly forced overtime, but its shot with 3.5 seconds left bounced off the crossbar.

Alex Brett (four goals) and Kyle Bistrain (three) paced the Eagles.

“This was a great building year for the future of the program,” said Tasman, whose young team (one senior) also featured Adam Hollingsworth and Boris Palant.

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