By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
It was only two summers ago that twin brothers Brandon and Matt Johnson stood on the pool deck at Palo Alto High as the new coaches of the boys' water polo team.
As close as twins are, it was only natural that the two came as a packaged deal.
Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon. The brothers were back on the same pool deck, only this time as opposing coaches -- Brandon still with Paly but Matt with rival Gunn, from where the brothers graduated in 2006.
Not only were the Vikings and Titans opening their SCVAL De Anza Division seasons, but the brothers were facing each other for the first time ever in a league match.
Score one for Matt and Gunn, as the Titans overcame an early 3-2 deficit in the first quarter and pulled away for a 14-7 victory.
There was no brotherly hug following the match, just an acknowledgment from both as the teams lined up and shook hands.
Was it good to beat his brother?
"Yeah," said Matt, who still shares the same roof with Brandon as both are hanging out at their parents' house. Thus, dinner on Tuesday might have been a bit awkward.
"That will be an interesting conversation," Brandon said of the possible dinner discussion. "I'm sure he (Matt) is going to rub it in a little."
Matt most likely stuck it to Brandon over dinner, even though this wasn't his first victory over his brother. Gunn and Paly faced each other at the High School Championships during the summer in Southern California, playing for 43rd place in the field of 48. Matt won that one, 12-8, in their first-ever head-to-head meeting as coaches.
This one, of course, was different. It wasn't just brother vs. brother, but Gunn vs. Palo Alto.
"We tried not to hype this game up," Brandon said. "I was focusing on the Schmitt tournament (last weekend). It wasn't like we were practicing just for this game. It's just another water polo game."
Tell that to Matt and his players, who suffered two losses to Paly last season. Gunn's last win over Paly came in 2011, in the Vikings' pool.
"We played great defense," Matt said. "We can score. That's not a problem."
Gunn (1-0, 2-3) got five goals from sophomore Christian Znidarsic and four from senior Coby Wayne, who would have had five but had a penalty shot negated for excessive arm movement before the shot. Ari Wayne added three goals for the Titans.
Gunn took advantage of some early fouls and a risky move by Brandon, who sat some of his starters in the second period in order to get them rested for the match's later stages. The Titans scored three unanswered goals, two by Coby Wayne and one by Ari, to grab a 6-3 lead.
Palo Alto (0-1, 3-2) got back to within 8-6 in the third following Sam Kelley's third goal, but Znidarsic scored three unanswered goals to make it 11-6 heading into the final quarter. It was too much of a deficit to make up. Winston Rosati also tallied three goals for the Vikings, who just didn't come up with enough defensive stops.
"We just didn't didn't play smart," Brandon said. "Our game is defense, a low-scoring game."
The Gunn girls made it a clean sweep later in the evening with a 13-1 swamping of Palo Alto. Natasha Batista led the Titans (1-0, 5-3) with four goals while Lauren Johnson and Caroline Anderson added three each.
"This was obviously a great way for us to begin our league season," said Gunn coach Mark Hernandez. "Palo Alto has historically been a big measuring stick for us, and it meant a lot to our program to come out and play as well as we did, in their house, and in front of a full house."
The Titans grabbed a 5-0 first-quarter lead and increased it to 9-0 at the half.
"We shared the ball well," Hernandez said, "and played very intelligent defense."
Palo Alto (0-1, 0-5) is still searching for its first win for new coach Danny Dye, the school's head swim coach. Dye said it will take time for things to jell, but hopes to have his team ready for the second half of the league season while making a run at a good seed for the De Anza Division playoffs.
In PAL Ocean Division action, Menlo School (3-1 league) fell into a first-place tie with Half Moon Bay (3-1) following an 11-5 loss to the host Cougars. Donya Dehnad had 11 saves in goal for the Knights.
In a day for Palo Alto-Gunn showdowns, the schools' golf teams met for the first time ever with the Titans holding on for a 195-197 victory in SCVAL action at Palo Alto Municipal.
Palo Alto is in its first season as a team, but pushed Gunn to the limit during a windy day that saw three players match par.
Gunn (4-0, 5-0) had two of them -- senior Jayshree Sarathy and junior Anna Zhou. Paly's Michelle Xie also shot 34.
Both teams were undefeated in league play coming into the match, with Paly dropping to 3-1.
Lianna McFarlane-Connelly shot 40 for Gunn with teammates Sandra Herchen (42) and Tiffany Yang (45) also scoring. Audrey Horn and Annie Chen each shot 39 for the Vikings, who got a 40 from Emily Hwang and a 45 from Elise Kiya.
On the same course later in the day, Menlo-Atherton shot 281 and won a Peninsula Athletic League tri-meet from Hillsdale (264) and Mills (295).
The Bears had only five players, missing one due to illness, and thus everyone's score counted. Freshman Naomi Lee led the way with a 41, followed by freshman Abigail Pederson's 42. Junior Ashley Utz and freshman Christiana Park both shot 44 while Tiffany Yang carded a 47.
In Menlo Park, Sacred Heart Prep opened its West Bay Athletic League season with a 237-273 victory over Harker at Sharon Heights Country Club. Junior Jessica Koenig led SHP (1-0, 1-1) with a 7-over 43. Lauren von Thaden shot 46 and Maddy Ellison a 47.
Palo Alto tuned up for this weekend's Harbor Tournament in Santa Cruz with a 25-9, 25-7, 25-21 nonleague victory over visiting King's Academy.
Becca Raffel had 10 kills for the Vikings (8-1) with fellow senior Keri Gee providing 18 digs. Molly Fogarty had 12 assists while fellow junior Hayley Poore had five kills on 11 swings and added six digs. Claire Dennis and Anna Dukovic also had five kills as 12 players contributed in that department.
In Atherton, 2012 Central Coast Section champions Menlo-Atherton and Sacred Heart Prep faced off, with the host Bears coming away with a 25-18, 25-17, 25-21 nonleague victory.
Senior Pauli King and junior Alyssa Ostrow each had 14 kills for the Bears (2-2), who won their first-ever CCS Division I title last season. Virginia Lane led the way with 28 digs, with Ostrow adding 16 and freshman Kirby Knapp 11 along with 36 assists.
The Gators (4-3), who won the CCS Division IV crown in 2012 and reached the state finals before losing, were led by Victoria Garrick's 17 kills. Natalie Marshall finished with 25 assists, Mamie Caruso had 12 digs and Ara Peterson added 10 kills.
In Portola Valley, Priory won its second straight home match by defeating Lick-Wilmerding, 25-19, 25-23, 25-23. The Panthers (5-0) got 19 kills and 11 digs from Marine Hall-Poirier, 23 assists from setter Riley Gallivan and three aces from freshman Megan Love.
In Palo Alto, Castilleja got 19 kills from Katya Scocimara and 18 kills plus six aces from Jessica Norum in a 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 33-31 marathon nonleague win over visiting Westmont. The Gators (6-2) rallied from a 24-18 deficit in the fourth set to pull out the victory.
In San Jose, Menlo School put up a battle before dropping a 25-21, 21-25, 28-26, 25-23 nonleague decision to defending CCS Division II champ Mitty, currently ranked No. 11 in the state by MaxPreps.com.
The Knights (6-3) had chances to take away the third and fourth games in what coach Steven Cavella called their "best match of the season."
"The effort was there, but we weren't able to execute at key moments," he said. "We had a swing to win set 3 and made a hitting error. We had a chance to tie the match at the end of game 4 . . . "
Lida Van der Meer finished with a team-high 20 kills. Maddy Frappier, making her first appearance of the season after coming off an injury, tallied 12 kills with a hitting percentage of .345. Maddie Huber pitched in with 15 kills.
"We played our best match of the season but came up short," Cavella said. "We need to improve our serve receive passing. It is inconsistent and we are putting a lot of pressure on our outsides to terminate in tough situations. We have a great middle in Morgan Dressel and we need to get her the ball. We also need to provide better situations for our outsides."
The Knights will get another major test when they host the third annual Chandler Invitational, a 16-team tournament, beginning Saturday at 8:30 a.m.