Kat Klass led the classy San Ramon Valley High girls water polo team in scoring, but the Wolves' secret weapon was a robust team defense.
They allowed just eight goals overall in three victories in the North Coast Section Division I playoffs, including a defensive masterpiece in a 7-1 win over rival Monte Vista in the Nov. 10 championship game.
Monte Vista amassed 38 goals in three playoff wins before the Wolves sealed off the cage to clinch their second straight section title.
Indeed defense wins championships.
"The whole team rose to playing strong defense and being able to shut down these other teams," Wolves coach Heather Johnston said of the playoffs.
San Ramon Valley has won six section titles overall in girls water polo, one fewer than Monte Vista.
Klass, the sophomore East Bay Athletic League MVP, had a game-high four goals against the Mustangs. But UC Santa Barbara commit Casey Pond, a first-team all-league pick, and goalie Devon Gasparini keyed a stifling defense
Versatile Grace Cochran, with her usual gung-ho style, and sprinter Mackenzie Flath, who can be counted on to get possession to start periods, also played key roles, along with much-improved Kelsey Martin.
San Ramon Valley (23-3) also won the Woodcreek Tournament this season, besting a strong field.
The Wolves' aquatic programs have soared under Johnston. She's been the head girls water polo coach for the past four seasons, including eight with the program, and the head swimming coach for the previous six seasons.
In swimming, Johnston has piloted the Wolves to three NCS girls championships and a runner-up finish over the past four years, the first top-two finishes in program history.
Johnston said when water polo opponents focused too much on Klass this season, she would become even more determined and her teammates would rise to the occasion. It produced devastating results.
"It's been good for our team," Johnston said of the balanced efforts. "Everyone has to play. We can't rely on just a couple of players. It's a whole team effort, which has been really fun to see."
The San Ramon Valley boys water polo team also brought a lot to the pool. The Wolves, who finished second in NCS, were paced by league MVP Tyler Martin, and first-team all-EBAL picks Sammy Yorke, Conor Neumann and Nick Pasichuke. Also making first team were Foothill's Eric Crispell and California's Jamison Shapland, along with De La Salle's trio of Tucker Angelo, Davis Clute and Colin Chiapello.
On the girls side, Monte Vista's Mackenzie Milham and Courtney Fahey, Foothill's Jennie Beadle, Granada's Greta Kohlmoos, Livermore's Michelle Hawkins, and Carondelet goalie Riley Shaw also made the first team.
TUCKNESS' GRAND FINALE: It was a tough season for the Division III Occidental-Los Angeles football team, but senior Matt Tuckness (Monte Vista) was a bright spot for the Tigers. Tuckness had a career-high 16 receptions for 234 yards and two touchdowns in a season-ending 36-24 loss to host University of La Verne on Nov. 10.
The Tigers were 3-7 overall and 2-5 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Despite missing a game and a half with an injury, Tuckness finished with eight touchdowns, 1,057 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns. He had 2,413 yards in 26 career games.
"He had a big day today," Occidental coach Bill Redell said on the school's website. "He caught the ball well, ran the ball well after he did catch it. ... If he would have been healthy he probably would have had over 100 catches this season."
Contact Matt Schwab at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @schwab_matt.