Sequoia water polo team hoping last year’s playoff trip is just the beginning 

click to enlarge Sequoia’s Helena Larsen has played a big role in the Cherokees’ early-season success in 2011. (Joseph Schell/Special to The Examiner) - SEQUOIA’S HELENA LARSEN HAS PLAYED A BIG ROLE IN THE CHEROKEES’ EARLY-SEASON SUCCESS IN 2011. (JOSEPH SCHELL/SPECIAL TO THE EXAMINER)
  • Sequoia’s Helena Larsen has played a big role in the Cherokees’ early-season success in 2011. (Joseph Schell/Special to The Examiner)
  • Sequoia’s Helena Larsen has played a big role in the Cherokees’ early-season success in 2011. (Joseph Schell/Special to The Examiner)

The Sequoia girls’ water polo team accomplished something last season never before done in the program’s history: reach the Central Coast Section playoffs.

Now Sequoia hopes to get back to that point and to remain competitive in the powerhouse-filled Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division.

The Cherokees are off to a fast start after reeling off wins against Robert Louis Stevenson, Half Moon Bay and Mills as the host of the Sequoia Girls’ Water Polo Invitational.

Sequoia coach Dave Knochenhauer, who is in his seventh year with the team, saw his team move up into the Bay and remain there, and attributes it to stability.

“We’re not trying to build a one-year team, but a program,” Knochenhauer said.

The program has grown from a group of about nine players to a group of 24.

What has helped has been the performance of the current players.

Seniors Brianna Carroll, Olivia Wade, Lucia Bartero and Lisa Weishaar are all four-year varsity players and have “done a great job stepping up to fill the void,” Knochenbauer said.

Junior Sammi Gembala is in her first year as a varsity goalie and has also stepped up for the Cherokees.

“They’ve seen the growth of the program,” Knochenhauer said. “They’ve bonded with the younger players.”

Along with the seniors, many of the players on the team swam together before high school on local club teams and summer water polo teams.

Many of the players of this close-knit group are participating in school-sponsored powder puff football, which is part of a school fundraiser.

The environment at Sequoia (4-0) has changed after the athletic successes last season.

In the past year, Sequoia had its football team reach the CCS Division II final, swim team finishing 15th overall in CCS and the boys’ soccer team make the CCS Division II quarterfinals.

Knochenhauer said the school has really banded together.

Seqouia lost in the quarterfinals of the CCS Division I playoffs to eventual champion and Bay Division foe Menlo-Atherton.

Menlo-Atherton highlights a talented Bay Division, along with Menlo and Castilleja.

“They’ve got outstanding players at each school,” Knochenhauer said. “We need to take advantage of our mistakes.”

Four Bay teams reached the CCS playoffs and all of them advanced past the first round in 2010.

“It showed that the PAL Bay league is a tough league,” Knochenhauer said. “It shows our league games are going to be real tough again this year.”

Sequoia finished fourth, claiming the league’s final automatic bid.

They have one additional midseason tournament at Monte Vista the weekend of Oct. 21. Sequoia opens up league play on Oct. 5 at Aragon.

 

Going swimmingly

COACH: Dave Knochenhauer

RECORD: 4-0

2010 RECORD: 11-6

LEAGUE: PAL Bay Division

LEAGUE OPENER: Oct. 5, at Aragon

LAST YEAR: Lost in the quarterfinals of the CCS Division I playoffs to Menlo-Atherton

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Zack Farmer

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