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Top teams in state in town for North-South Challenge

Some of the top boys' water polo teams in the nation, and certainly in the state, will converge on the Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo-Atherton pools this weekend for the seventh annual North vs. North Challenge.

The elite 16-team field features the top three teams from last year's tourney -- champion Mater Dei, runner-up El Toro and third-place Miramonte. Mater Dei, from Orange County, is the two-time defending champ, matching El Toro's titles in 2009 and 2006.

Mater Dei (15-0) comes in the heavy favorite as well, as the No. 1 Division I team from the CIF Southern Section with 11 returnees from 2011. Mater Dei defeated Corona del Mar, 13-5, this week for its 63rd straight triumph -- a Southern Section record.

This weekend's field includes seven teams ranked among the top 10 in either Division I or II in the Southern Section.

Loyola (Los Angeles) is No. 2 in Division I while Los Alamitos is No. 3 and El Toro is No. 5. In Division II, Agoura is No. 1, Santa Barbara is No. 4 and Villa Park is No. 8.

Mater Dei is the No. 1 seed from the South while co-host Sacred Heart Prep (16-3) is the No. 1 seed from the North.

Menlo-Atherton (9-7) is the No. 6 North seed while Menlo School (9-8) is No. 7. St. Francis (Mountain View) is No. 5 and Los Altos is No. 7.

No team from the North has finished higher than third in this tournament, arguably one of the toughest in the nation. Menlo School (2006), Sacred Heart Prep (2008) and Miramonte (last year) have earned third-place finishes.

Last season, SHP beat Menlo School in the 11th-place game.

The Gators, which may have their deepest team ever under coach Brian Kreutzkamp, come into this tourney with a good chance of breaking into the top two. SHP opens at home against No. 8 Villa Park on Friday at 10:30 a.m., and could meet the Acalanes-Santa Barbara winner at 3:55 p.m.

Should SHP reach the semifinals on Saturday at 10:20 a.m., it could face either Loyola or El Toro blocking its way to the final at 4:10 p.m.

2012 NORTH vs. SOUTH CHALLENGE

FRIDAY

At Sacred Heart Prep

Game 1 -- Sacred Heart Prep vs. Villa Park, 10:30 a.m.

Game 3 -- Acalanes vs. Santa Barbara, 11:35 p.m.

Game 5 -- Loyola (LA) vs. Menlo School, 12:40 p.m.

Game 7 -- Davis vs. El Toro, 1:45 p.m.

Game 9 -- Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 2:50 p.m.

Game 11 -- Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 3:55 p.m.

Game 13 -- Game 5 loser vs. Game 7 loser, 5 p.m.

Game 15 -- Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 6:05 p.m.

At Menlo-Atherton High

Game 2 -- Mater Dei vs. Los Altos, 10:30 a.m.

Game 4 -- Agoura vs. St. Francis (MV), 11:35 a.m.

Game 6 -- Miramonte vs. Vista (San Diego), 12:40 p.m.

Game 8 -- Los Alamitos vs. Menlo-Atherton, 1:45 p.m.

Game 10 -- Game 2 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 2:50 p.m.

Game 12 -- Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 3:55 p.m.

Game 14 -- Game 6 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 5 p.m.

Game 16 -- Game 6 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 6:05 p.m.

SATURDAY

At Sacred Heart Prep

Game 17 -- Game 11 loser vs. Game 15 loser, 8 a.m.

Game 19 -- Game 12 loser vs. Game 16 loser, 9:10 a.m.

Game 21 -- Game 11 winner vs. Game 15 winner, 10:20 a.m.

Game 23 -- Game 12 winner vs. Game 16 winner, 11:30 a.m.

Game 25 -- Game 17 loser vs. Game 19 loser (7th place), 12:40 p.m.

Game 27 -- Game 17 winner vs. Game 19 winner (5th place), 1:50 p.m.

Game 29 -- Game 21 loser vs. Game 23 loser (3rd place), 3 p.m.

Game 31 -- Game 21 winner vs. Game 23 winner (1st place), 4:10 p.m.

At Menlo-Atherton High

Game 18 -- Game 10 loser vs. Game 14 loser, 8 a.m.

Game 20 -- Game 9 loser vs. Game 13 loser, 9:10 a.m.

Game 22 -- Game 10 winner vs. Game 14 winner, 10:20 a.m.

Game 24 -- Game 9 winner vs. Game 13 winner, 11:30 a.m.

Game 26 -- Game 18 loser vs. Game 20 loser (15th place), 12:40 p.m.

Game 28 -- Game 18 winner vs. Game 20 winner (13th place), 1:50 p.m.

Game 30 -- Game 22 loser vs. Game 24 loser (11th place), 3 p.m.

Game 32 -- Game 22 winner vs. Game 24 winner (9th place), 4:10 p.m.

— Keith Peters/Palo Alto Online Sports

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