Good luck to those responsible for seeding the North Coast Section Division I boys water polo tournament.
In what has already been an unpredictable season, Las Lomas High may have produced the most surprising result with its 13-10 victory over two-time defending section champion Miramonte last week. It was the first time since 2002 that Las Lomas earned a win over its Diablo Foothill Athletic League rival and the first time since 2010 that Miramonte, the gold standard in water polo around these parts, lost to another NCS team.
"We could not have played a better game," said Steve Mann, who has been Las Lomas' coach since 1996 and reached 300 career wins with the victory over Miramonte. "Everyone was super-excited and amped up. They knew the significance of that win."
Even with their milestone victory, the Knights still may be relegated to the No. 5 seed in the NCS Division I tournament, which begins next week. That shows how much parity there is at the top this year.
De La Salle, San Ramon Valley, Campolindo, Acalanes and Drake-San Anselmo are also legitimate contenders in the Division I field.
"I think anyone can win this thing," Mann said.
Las Lomas, which has wins over San Ramon Valley and Acalanes but losses to Campolindo and De La Salle, will be out to prove that its win over Miramonte wasn't a fluke.
The Knights don't have the speed of some of their local rivals, but they have a roster of big, strong players. Goalie Spencer Creed is a four-year starter, and junior David Kessler and senior Sam Toriggino lead the offense.
After graduating 12 players from its 2012 East Bay Athletic League and NCS Division I championship team, Monte Vista remains one of the best teams in the East Bay.
The Mustangs enter Thursday's match against Foothill unbeaten in league, as junior varsity players from last season, along with a talented new freshman trio, have seized their new opportunity.
"There's lot of enthusiasm," Mustangs coach Patty Gross said. "Nobody was saying, 'Oh, we lost all our players from last year.' Nobody was ever down. We said, 'We're gonna do it.' It's been great -- a really fun, well-bonded team."
Monte Vista (16-2, 12-0 EBAL) boasts ninth-grade newcomers Jenna Bloom, who has been steady at No. 3 singles, Julia Gutkin and Jordan Douglas, who excels in singles and doubles.
No. 1 singles player Julia Tomzcak has kept her game sharp fending off Bailey Parsons for the top spot. Parsons owns quality wins at No. 1 and 2 singles. Dedicated senior Jamie Hirschberg has set a strong example for the newcomers.
Gross pointed to a thrilling 5-4 win over Foothill in the first round of league play as evidence of the team's resilience.
The Mustangs needed one win from the final two matches to best the Falcons. After Foothill won at No. 6 singles, the Mustangs' Nikki Craft and Aly Cunningham won the third set 6-4 by breaking serve to clinch the team victory.
-- Matt Schwab
Newark Memorial is following up a solid 2012 campaign with another strong season. After going 23-11 last year and reaching the second round of the NCS Division II playoffs, the Cougars own a 21-4 overall record and a 10-1 mark in the Mission Valley Athletic League.
Newark Memorial received the No. 8 seed for the NCS Division II playoffs last season and lost in the second round to No. 1 Redwood-Larkspur.
With a 36-4 record, Redwood could be the No. 1 seed again this season for Division II. But the Cougars should be seeded a bit higher than No. 8, meaning they won't have to face such a tough opponent so early in the tournament.
"I think we have a great shot at doing well in Division II this year," Newark Memorial coach Lindsay Simeone said. "The girls were proud, yet disappointed in losing in the second round last year and hope to go further."
-- Matt Smith, correspondent