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Sacred Heart Prep boys' water polo team out to prove itself

Nathan Mollat Daily Journal staff
The Sacred Heart Prep boys’ water polo team could only wonder “what if?” during the 2021 spring season.

The general consensus was the 2020-21 edition of the Gators was one of the best in school history but, because of the pandemic, was not able to test that theory against the best teams in the nation. There was no Central Coast Section of Nor Cal playoffs to claim, either.

Most programs don’t get another chance at having an all-time great team. Sacred Heart Prep is not most programs. The Gators have one of the best teams in the state again this season and head coach Brian Kreutzkamp believes this is the year they can make some real noise on the national level.

“On paper, most would say this team (fall 2021) is better (than spring 2021). It’s tough to compare because they didn’t get to play outside the area (during the spring). We’re at least as good as last year’s team,” Kreutzkamp said. “We’re consistent year over year in CCS, but every now and then you can make a difference nationally.”

That’s saying a lot, considering the Gators put on a clinic last season in the game they were allowed to play. They went 13-0, which included wins over East Bay powers Miramonte and Campolindo. During the season, the Gators outscored their opponents 203-62.

But the Gators have already announced their presence with a strong showing at a tournament in Southern California last month.

“At the end of the summer, they have an unofficial Elite Eight tournament at Mater Dei,” Kreutzkamp said. “We lost in the championship game to Huntington Beach (the top-ranked team in nation) by one goal. We were down one starter.

“When the preseason rankings come out, it should be Huntington Beach, us, Mater Dei, Harvard-Westlake and Newport Harbor.”

About the only difference between this year’s squad and last is the depth of the spring team, which Kreutzkamp said went at least 12 deep. He is concerned about depth this season, but returning six of seven starters certainly has its advantages.

There is also the fact that the Gators will have four, four-year varsity players that give the team experience that other teams envy, including Griff Price, a Stanford-commit who is considered the best high school goalie in the country. Joining Price on the four-year list are Luke Johnston, Bear Weigle and Jack Vort. You can also throw in Gavin West, who spent two varsity seasons in Connecticut before transferring to SHP last year. West led the Gators in scoring last season with 33 goals.

“We return a good amount,” Kreutzkamp said.

Poised for four-year varsity status are a pair of third-year juniors who have already contributed extensively — Jake Tsotadze, who contributed 18 goals and a team-leading 21 assists last season, and Will Swart (9 goals, 16 assists). Harrison Rohlen and Luke Bachler, a pair of juniors, along with sophomore Tyler Hogan, are expected to increase their roles this season and make bigger contributions.

It will be all hands on deck for the Gators, however, as Kreutzkamp has put together a bold schedule. In addition to West Catholic Athletic League play, which included state Bellarmine and Menlo School, the Gators are scheduled to play in three tournaments considered the best in the country. They open tournament play at the South Coast Invitational at Newport Harbor in September, followed by the Elite Eight at Harvard-Westlake at the beginning of October and the North-South Invitational, hosted by SHP, a week later.

“We’re not coming out slowly, that’s for sure,” Kreutzkamp said. “We will see the top-10 teams in the country at each one of those tournaments.”

Most of those top-10 schools are based in Southern California and in addition to three of the toughest tournaments in the country and a rugged WCAL schedule, Kreutzkamp has filled out his schedule with a who’s who of high school water polo powers, with games against Harvard-Westlake, Newport Harbor and a home-and-home series with Campolindo.

This in addition to scrimmages with Miramonte and Marin County-power Drake.

The season ends with the CCS and Nor Cal tournaments.

“I’m pretty excited about this year’s team,” Kreutzkamp said. “What we’re looking forward to the most is to see how good we are. Just to go back and play these tournaments with top teams, top officials, college recruiters — we’re all excited.”

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Founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart, SHS is a Catholic, independent, co-ed day school for students in preschool through grade 12