The unseeded Bears shocked No. 6 seed St. Ignatius, 4-3, in Golden Gate Park while the unseeded Gators upended West Bay Athletic League rival Harker, 4-2, in San Jose.
The victories moved both teams into Friday's quarterfinals, where they will face even more difficult opposition. Menlo-Atherton (15-5) will make the short trip to Menlo School to take on the No. 3-seeded Knights (18-5) at 2:30 p.m. Sacred Heart Prep (17-6) gets the unenviable task of facing top seed Saratoga (19-0) on the Falcons' court, also at 2:30 p.m.
On paper, neither the Bears nor the Gators have a chance on Friday. Then again, that was supposed to be the case Wednesday.
On a cold and clear afternoon in San Francisco, M-A used its depth in doubles and at the bottom of the singles lineup to shock the favored Wildcats. The match was tied at 3 before M-A's No. 1 doubles team of Chloe Rehlaender and Jordyn Fantuzzi rallied from a 6-4 loss in the first set and won the next two, 6-2, 6-1, to clinch the thrilling victory.
St. Ignatius grabbed a quick lead when nationally ranked Caroline Doyle dispatched M-A's Paige Keating at No. 1 singles, 6-1, 6-0. The Bears notted things when Erin LaPorte won her No. 3 singles match, 6-1, 6-0. The Wildcats regained the lead when the Bears' Julia Sommer fell at No. 2 singles, 6-1, 6-1, before M-A's Lauren Diller made it 2-2 with a 7-6 (7-1, 6-2 triumph at No. 4 singles.
All three doubles matches were still in progress at that point, with M-A's No. 2 tandem of Siena Roat-Shumway and Lindy LaPlante giving their team a 3-2 lead with a 7-5, 6-3 win. The No. 1 and 3 doubles matches then went to a third set, with Rehaender and Fantuzzi clinching the team triumph before the No. 3 doubles finished.
Sacred Heart Prep's upset win wasn't as dramatic, but nonetheless effective. The teams had split their WBAL regular-season matches, with the Gators winning their second meeting, 4-3. In that match, the teams split the singles. This time, Harker held a 2-1 lead (with No. 2 singles halted due to darkness. Thus, just like in the previous match, doubles decided it.
Kelsey Hemm and Alexa Bokman posted a 6-2, 6-4 victory at No. 1 doubles (Hemm and Isabelle Thompson had won previously) while Ceci Marshall and Danni Struck registered a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 victory at No. 2 (they also had won in three sets in the prior match). The difference turned out to be at No. 3 doubles, where Nicole Schulz and Ruthy Sarwal scored a 6-2, 7-5 win. In the previous match, Schulz and Sarwal had lost in three sets.
In the only second-round match that went true to form on Wednesday, No. 3 Menlo ended Palo Alto's season with a 6-1 victory. The Vikings finished 12-8 after being the last team to squeeze into the tournament.
Fifth-seeded Menlo School went on the road to beat No. 12 Half Moon Bay in the first round of the CCS Division IV playoffs, 20-25, 25-21, 25-14, 25-18. Getting 16 kills from senior Jazmin Moledina, the Knights improved to 21-15 overall, and the 12th-seeded Cougars finished the year at 25-6.
"We really struggled at the start, but the girls fought hard to come back in the second set and turn the match around," said Menlo coach Chris Crader. "Jazmin played as well as she ever has, and we slowly pieced our game back together as the match went on. We know we really have our hands full with Sacred Heart Prep Saturday, but we look forward to the challenge."
Menlo will face No. 4 SHP (18-10) on Saturday in a quarterfinal match at Valley Christian in San Jose at 11 a.m. The Gators defeated the Knights twice during the WBAL regular season.
Against HMB, Menlo got a huge night from Moledina, who hit .481 with 16 kills, 10 blocks and an ace. Junior Natalie Roy added 10 kills and 13 digs, and freshman Maddie Huber had six kills, 15 digs and two aces. Senior Anelise Hohl and sophomore Drew Edelman had five kills each, and freshmen Maddy Frappier recorded 33 assists, eight digs, four kills, three aces and five blocks.
In CCS Division I first-round action, Julia Maggioncalda had 18 kills as Gunn won its first playoff match in three years with a 25-14, 25-23, 20-25, 25-22 win over Homestead in front of a raucous crowd on Wednesday night.
The No. 7-seeded Titans (28-6) will visit No. 2 North Salinas (27-4) in a quarterfinal match Saturday at 3 p.m. North Salinas is the defending CCS Division I champion.
Against Homestead, from the SCVAL De Anza Division, the El Camino Division champion Titans got seven kills from sophomore Molly McAdam had six from senior Kiana Choroski. Adrienne Thom had 23 digs and Julia Li had 18. Maggioncalda and Nicole Grimwood both had 11 digs while setter Alyn Shen had 32 assists.
Girls' water polo
Seventh-seeded Menlo School controlled the match from the outset, grabbing a 5-2 first-quarter lead on the way to a 13-9 triumph over No. 10 Live Oak on Wednesday at Palo Alto High.
The Knights (9-12) took advantage of their strong 2-meter play by freshman Averi Westerman and senior Morgan Cundiff, who finished with four and three goals, respectively. Senior Hailey Smith contributed three goals, six steals and four assists.
Menlo advances to face No. 2 seed Los Altos (18-6) on Saturday in the quarterfinals at Sacred Heart Prep at 2 p.m.
Also at Palo Alto, the host Vikings (16-13) held up their No. 5 seed with a 10-2 victory over No. 12 Santa Teresa as junior Skylar Dorosin tallied six goals. Paly will face No. 4 seed Gunn (21-5) in the quarterfinals on Saturday at Lynbrook at 5:50 p.m. The teams have met three times previously this season with Gunn holding a 2-1 edge.