By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Withstanding near-100 degree heat and some of the top teams in the state, the Menlo School girls' tennis team won three of four matches and finished third in its 16-team division at the prestigious California High School Classic this past weekend at Clovis and Clovis West highs near Fresno.
"Last year we got fifth and this year we got third," said Menlo coach Bill Shine. "Any time you can go 3-1 here, It's a good start . . . We got a good idea of what needs to be done."
In a showcase of more than 100 teams statewide, the Knights (3-1) took on the best in Division I -- the top tier of the tourney. Menlo lost only to Monta Vista, 6-1, which went on to win the division with a win over Mitty.
The Knights opened with a 5-2 win over Davis before topping two-time defending champ Corona Del Mar, 5-2. After the loss to Monta Vista, Menlo bounced back with a 4-3 victory over Santa Barbara as sophomore Christine Eliazo clinched the victory with a 6-4, 7-5 triumph at No. 3 singles.
Shine liked the effort of his singles players, which will be the team's strength this season. Junior Giannina Ong played at No. 1 while sophomore Kristy Jorgensen was solid at No. 2 along with junior Laura Gradiska at No. 4.
Freshman Liz Yao, who could move into the singles lineup during the season, instead played doubles during the weekend with sophomore Paulina Golikova at No. 1 doubles. Helena Ong, another freshman and the sister of Giannina, also saw doubles action along with sophomore Sarah Schinasi, junior Sam Hoag and Kacie Madeira, the team's only senior.
While the singles were strong, Shine said his doubles will need some work as the season progresses and the Knights challenge Monta Vista, Saratoga and Mitty for Central Coast Section honors.
Menlo returns to action Wednesday against visiting Burlingame in a makeup match at 3:30 p.m.
Palo Alto, meanwhile, finished third in its own tournament after defeating Homestead on Saturday. Lynbrook won the two-day, round-robin event with a 3-0 match record and 33 sets won. Aragon (2-1, 31 sets) was second with Palo Alto going 1-2 with 30 sets won.
The Vikings will be tested this week when they open SCVAL De Anza Division action at Monta Vista (Tuesday) before hosting Saratoga (Thursday), arguably the top two teams in the division.
Priory dropped its second straight nonconference game in eight-man competition by falling to host Anderson Valley, 56-8, on Saturday.
Pinewood, meanwhile, opened its season a day earlier but also suffered a loss -- 26-22 to visiting Stuart Hall. John Bennet led the Panthers by completing 14 of 26 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns while Dante Fraioli paced the rushing attack with 45 yards on 14 hauls. Kevin Sweat caught six passes for 70 yards and one touchdown.
Fraioli and Daniel Branski paced the defensive effort with 11 tackles each while Greg Naumann added eight. M.J. Stevens had a pair of sacks.
Menlo School continued its torrid season start by winning all four of its matches in a near-sweep to capture the 13-team Del Mar Tournament title in San Jose on Saturday.
The Knights (9-2) opened with a 25-6, 25-11 victory over tournament host Del Mar before dispatching South San Francisco, 25-11, 25-18. Menlo then topped Mills, 25-5, 25-19. In the finale, the Knights beat Los Altos, 23-25, 25-19, 15-9 to claim the championship.
Emma Thygesen had 31 kills while Natalie Roy added 27 for Menlo, which next plays at Sequoia at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday.
In Portola Valley, Priory captured its own Panther Invitational by sweeping all four matches on the weekend. The Panthers (5-0) opened with a 2-0 win over St. Thomas More, and followed that with 2-0 victories over St. Lawrence and Providence Hall. Priory capped the tourney with a 2-1 victory over Burton.
Junior Clara Johnson, junior Briana Willhite and sophomore Marine Hall-Poirier all had standout weekends while helping Priory to the title.
In the Fresno area, Gunn compiled a 5-2 record over the two-day Central California Classic and wound up ninth after going 3-0 after the opening day. The Titans were forced to a third set in each match on Saturday.
This weekend, Gunn will travel to Harbor High School in Santa Cruz for its first-ever appearance in the Harbor Invitational tournament.
Boys' water polo
Priory faced its first competition of the 2011 season at the Lincoln/Sobrato tournament in Morgan Hill last weekend and finished 1-2.
Co-captain Eric Turnquist, Ryan Valentine and Kyle Walden each scored at least four goals in the squad's 19-4 win over Silver Creek to close out the tournament on Saturday. Daniel DiGiovanni aided the swarming defense with two steals while co-captain Max Barnes and Daniel Warner combined for 12 saves in goal.
On Friday, Priory led conference-rival Aragon by two goals in the first half but could not hold the lead and fell, 16-10. Max Barnes had eight saves and three assists in the cage. Short-handed on Saturday morning, Priory's newest players got significant playing time and valuable experience in a 15-2 loss to the PAL Ocean Division champion Half Moon Bay.
Priory travels to Aragon for its first conference match on Thursday at 3 p.m.
Girls water polo
Four-time defending Central Coast Section Division II champ Sacred Heart Prep opened its season with a 2-2 finish at the annual St. Francis Autumn Invitational during the weekend. The Gators started strongly on Friday with a 13-4 win over Rio Americano and a 7-1 victory over defending CCS Division I champ Menlo-Atherton as senior Pippa Temple tallied nine goals in the two wins.
The Gators, however, dropped a 9-1 decision to tourney runner-up Davis in the semifinals on Saturday before falling to host St. Francis, 15-7, in the third-place match. Temple was blanked by Davis but scored three goals against the Lancers and finished with 12 for the tourney.
St. Francis (Sacramento) won the two-day tourney with a 6-3 win over Davis in the finals. St. Francis (Sacto) had beaten the host Lancers in the other semifinal.
Sacred Heart Prep will return to the Lancers' pool on Wednesday (4:30 p.m.) to open its West Catholic Athletic League season. Gators' coach Jon Burke said his team needs to be better than on Saturday.
"We are focusing on a number of items, but in particular we will be working on our transition game, both in offense and defense," Burke said.
Castilleja, Menlo-Atherton and Palo Alto all went 1-3 in the tournament. The Gators' lone win came against Aragon, 14-1, as Sara Holston scored four times. M-A's only win was a 9-8 squeaker over Mitty in the first round. Bears' coach Chris Rubin called the weekend a "humbling" experience for his team.