San Ramon Valley High junior Kat Klass' passionate approach to water polo was crystal clear to Wolves' supporters.
Her infectious enthusiasm helped vault the Wolves to, well, the head of class.
"She absolutely loves the sport, and she wants everyone around her to love it as much as she does," Wolves coach Heather Johnston said of Klass. "It doesn't matter who the opponent is; it fires up the coaching staff, fires up her teammates, fires up the crowd."
The fired-up Wolves finished the season unbeaten for the first time, 27-0, after a 9-6 win over rival Monte Vista in the North Coast Section Division I championship match on Nov. 16. San Ramon Valley has won three straight section titles.
Water polo suits Klass' personality.
"I kind of look to it as my release after having long day of school," she said. "You don't have to worry about anything else for two hours. I have to work hard at whatever I'm doing, and water polo rewards hard work."
What catapulted the Wolves to an unbeaten run against a demanding schedule?
Well, they benefited from an infusion of five outstanding and accomplished freshmen. The newbies were goalie Marsha Webb; Sarah Klass, Kat's sister; Alexis Liebowitz; Sophie Kuester; and Erin McCreary. The same freshmen had helped the under-14 680 Drivers Club team, coached by Todd Halvorson, win a national championship at the Junior Olympics in August in Southern California.
Liebowitz gave the Wolves a tactical advantage on the attack as a left-hander, and the team could always rely on Webb fronting the goal.
"It was impressive to be a freshman and to step into that role and be able to play in those big games," Johnston said of Webb.
Klass said the team didn't start out gunning for an unbeaten record, but once the record got to 13-0, 14-0, players could sense something special was in the air.
Before the varsity season revved up, Klass, the daughter of USA Water Polo Hall of Fame inductee, Craig Klass, helped the U.S. national youth team win a gold medal at the UANA Youth Pan American Championships in Argentina. Two weeks later, Klass scored 18 goals for the Wolves in the Acalanes Invitational.
Not surprisingly, Monte Vista, which finished as unbeaten NCS champions in 2010, made things tough on San Ramon Valley in the section finale.
"Monte Vista came out really ready to play," Johnston said. "They gave us a very good game. They have some talent on their team as well."
Johnston made sure the Wolves were well-seasoned for the challenge. The team's schedule included three games each against Central Coast Section Division II power Sacred Heart Prep, NCS Division II champion Campolindo and Monte Vista. San Ramon Valley also won the prestigious NorCal tournament for the first time.
Johnston said they emphasized unity with a talented squad composed of five seniors, five freshmen, one junior and three sophomores.
It all added up a perfectly enjoyable season. First class.
MATS TOP DONS: It's tough to beat a quality football team twice in the same season, and probably even tougher to do so twice in the span of 15 days.
But Granada found a way in a thrilling 24-20 win over Amador Valley in the first round of the NCS Division I playoffs on Nov. 16. The same teams met on Nov. 1, with Granada prevailing 42-21.
The rematch was a cliffhanger. Granada's Tyler Offill completed a 21-yard touchdown completion to Joshua Revay with 1:34 left to provide the winning margin. No. 8 seeded Granada then stopped a last-ditch march to clinch a date in the quarterfinals on Friday at De La Salle.