Girls Water Polo Wins NorCal Invitational – Moves to 20-0.

This weekend the top 16 teams from Northern California gathered in Atherton for the NorCal Invitational Championships hosted in the impressive surroundings of the Sacred Heart Schools. The Lady Dons traveled as defending champions, backed by an unbeaten season record, but were expecting fierce competition from Sacred Heart Prep, Davis HS, SoQuel HS (Santa Cruz), Leland HS (San Jose) as well as local East Bay rivals Campolindo HS, Miramonte HS and San Ramon Valley HS. However, after a grueling championship game where the Dons almost let slip an 8-2 lead, they emerged victorious to extend their unbeaten season to 20-0 and make it back-to-back Norcal Invitational Championships. Going back to last season, the winning streak now stands at 47, but the wins are getting tougher to come by.

With injuries to a number of the Varsity players the Dons chose to call up Freshman Amigos Audrey Cox, Elle Forschler, Daylor Williams, Alexa Carter and Sarah Archer to bolster the squad. With some feisty performances, the Amigos showed that the Dons have a healthy future to look forward to.

The first game for the Dons was on Friday morning against Gunn HS of Palo Alto, one of the tournament co-hosts. Gunn showed themselves to be a game but inexperienced team and the Dons quickly moved through the gears to build an 8-2 lead by the end of the first quarter. More of the same followed and the Lady Dons were able to give their whole squad game time as they eased to a comfortable win 23-7. Audrey Cox played the whole game for the Dons and made 10 saves while at the other end the goals came from Heidi Heffelfinger (6), Claire Rowell (4), Jewel Roemer (2), Alana McCartney (2), Mary Beth Heffelfinger (2), Daylor Williams (2), Caroline Schirmer, Brooke Westphal, Sarah Archer, Elle Forschler and Alexa Carter.

The Dons were through to the last eight to meet SoQuel HS on Friday afternoon. SoQuel had proved a tough team earlier in the season, but this time the Dons came out fast, pressing hard and countering rapidly to put SoQuel on the back foot right from the start. Two goals each from Rowell and McCartney gave the Dons a 4-1 lead and another from Schirmer made in 5-1 at the end of the first quarter. The Dons turned up the heat in the second quarter, scoring eight goals, with four from Roemer (including two 5 meter penalty shots drawn by Rowell and Mould) and other goals from McCartney, Rowell, Mary Beth Heffelfinger and Heidi Heffelfinger. The score at the half was 13-3.  The Dons took the opportunity to rotate through the squad in the second half but the goals continued to come with scores for Rowell (2), Heidi Heffelfinger (2), Archer, and Roemer. By the end of the game it was 19-7 to the Dons with the goals coming from Rowell (5), Roemer (5), McCartney (3), Heidi Heffelfinger (3), Schirmer, Mary Beth Heffelfinger and Archer. Ava Donleavy made 9 saves and Roemer made 4 assists.

Saturday saw a midday start for the Dons and a semi-final against Davis HS who had earned the right to face the Dons with a good win against Miramonte HS the evening before. The Dons had unfinished business against Davis after their earlier game in the season had been called off midway through the fourth quarter with the Dons holding a slim 6-5 advantage. The tension showed as both teams started slowly and struggled to convert opportunities. Donleavy made a good save in the Dons cage and at the other end chances went begging. Eventually the Dons favorite combination came good as Roemer supplied Rowell with the assist for the first goal. A goal for Roemer made it 2-1 at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter remained tight before Heidi Heffelfinger worked an opening for Schirmer to score and then Rowell supplied the pass for Alex Mould to fire into the roof of the cage. Another goal for the Roemer to Rowell combination and a goal for Brooke Westphal made it 6-3 at the half. The third quarter proved decisive as the Dons took over and stretched away scoring five goals from Roemer (3) and Rowell (2) to make it 11-5 after three quarters. The Lady Dons closed out the game in the fourth quarter with goals from McCartney and a second from Mould to make the final score 13-6. The final scoring showed four goals each for Roemer and Rowell with other goals from Mould (2), Schirmer, Westphal and McCartney. Donleavy made 10 saves and Roemer drew 5 exclusions.

Sacred Heart Prep overcame a tough Campolindo HS team in the other semi-final to give the match up everyone wanted to see in the Championship game, the defending champion Acalanes Dons against the tournament hosts Sacred Heart Prep Gators. The Gators (20-2) have had an excellent season and are favorites to take the CCS title, their two losses coming in close games against the Dons. As Sacred Heart prepared for the championship game it was clear that they were relishing the chance for another crack at the Dons, this time in their home pool. The previous encounters had been hard fought with no quarter given and the third installment was to prove the same. The Dons, however, were up for the fight and jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead with goals from Rowell, Roemer (5 meter penalty shot drawn by Westphal), McCartney and Schirmer. The Gators were stunned for a moment but hung in to finish the quarter down 6-2 after further Dons scores from Roemer and Rowell. The Dons pushed the lead out further in the second quarter with goals from Rowell and Schirmer but just when it seemed that Sacred Heart might crumble, the Gators started their fightback drawing a succession of exclusions and starting to convert their 6 on 5 opportunities. The half ended 8-5 with the Dons seeming to still hold a comfortable lead. In the third quarter Sacred Heart continued to work hard and claw their way back into the game, restricting the Dons could to one score by Schirmer. The third quarter ended with the game too close for the Dons liking at 9-7. A tense final quarter saw Sacred Heart continue to press but the Dons score twice through Westphal and Roemer and eventually closed out the game as 11-10 winners. The Lady Dons were Norcal Champions for the second year running but it had certainly been too close for comfort. Donleavy made 8 saves and goals came from Roemer (3), Rowell (3), Schirmer (3), McCartney and Westphal. Roemer made 3 assists.

Overall in the tournament Rowell scored 16 goals with other goals from Roemer (14), Heidi Heffelfinger (9), McCartney (7), Schirmer (6), Mary Beth Heffelfinger (3), Westphal (3), Mould (2), Williams (2), Archer (2), Forschler and Carter. Roemer made 11 assists with others from Mould (6), Westphal (6), Rowell (6), McCartney (4), Mary Beth Heffelfinger (4), Schirmer (2), Heidi Heffelfinger, Miller, Forschler and Williams. Roemer made 6 steals with others from Mould (5), Forschler (3), Schirmer (2), McCartney (2), Mary Beth Heffelfinger, Rowell, Miller, Heidi Heffelfinger, Westphal, Williams, Carter and Archer. Roemer drew 10 exclusions with others drawn by Mould (5), Rowell (3), Westphal (2), McCartney (2), Carter (2), Mary Beth Heffelfinger, Heidi Heffelfinger, and Schirmer. Mould, Rowell, Schirmer and Westphal also earned 5 meter penalty shots for the Dons. Roemer made 6 field blocks and Mary Beth Heffelfinger one. In the cage Ava Donleavy made 27 saves and Audrey Cox 11.