The Knights lost a hardfought game to Sir Francis Drake High School, 14-4. The game was played at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Jack Bowen.
By Ty Corley
Due to the bad air quality caused by the northern California fires, the boys varsity water polo team had to cancel the marquee North South tournament in which a number of the top teams in the country meet in northern California.
The Santa Rosa and Sonoma county regions have been ravaged by fires recently. The smoke from the fires drifted into the bay area, causing air quality to decrease. The poor air has caused a number of practices and outdoor activities to be cancelled at schools all over the bay area, including Menlo. “[The school] has been referring to government agencies to keep track of the air quality,” health services coordinator Joan Barada said.
The North South tournament included 16 of the top 25 teams in country who were from all over California. Head varsity coach Jack Bowen noted that the Knights were looking forward to playing against such tough competition. As the tournament was cancelled only a day before its scheduled start, several Southern California teams had already traveled to the bay area.
According to Bowen, teams frantically tried to schedule games so they could get something out of the trip. “It turns out that one of the coaches in the tournament had a connection at the Olympic club in San Francisco,” Bowen said. “We scrambled to try and get some pool time.” The Knights were able to book a rematch with Sir Francis Drake High School who they fell to, 11-3, earlier in the season. The Knights battled throughout the game but lost 14-4 in a hard fought match. However the game was bigger than just the score that day. “I think it’s amazing that we went to great lengths to play a game that we love,” Bowen said. “In light of what is happening up north, this game goes to show that we can’t take anything for granted.”
The indoor game proved to be valuable for the team even amongst the poor conditions. “I’ve had experience playing indoors before,” junior Sam Untrecht said. “However, due to the bad air, I was constantly coughing and wasn’t able to play as much as I usually do. It was a hard situation to play in, but it was an important experience.”
Arguably more important, however, was the coming together of the entire program the Friday before the scheduled tournament game which was on Saturday. “The entire program, boys and girls, came together and had a real discussion on virtue and value in sports,” Bowen said. This was just one of the many ways that Bowen and other coaches tried to salvage lost practice time due to the bad air quality. They also spent increased time in the training room and going over film. “It was really tough to miss this practice time, especially because we were trying to implement new schemes,” Bowen said. “We had to be really focused when we were watching film.”
The increased focus and preparation, even without practice time, was largely due to a strong class of senior leaders. “The seniors have created a great culture that welcomes in all the underclassmen,” Bowen said, “This makes it so all grades are able to contribute to the varsity program.” With strong senior leadership and a talented underclass, the Knights are primed for a deep playoff run.