By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
With sophomore Sarah Robinson away in Southern California with the U.S. National U-15 soccer team at a training camp at the Home Depot Center in Carson, the Gunn girls' cross-country team seemed ripe for an upset at the annual Palo Alto City Championships on Tuesday.
While Robinson had been unbeaten in three previous races, the Titans didn't miss a beat in her absence as senior Kieran Gallagher stepped up on Senior Day and ran away with the girls' individual title while helping the Titans hold off Palo Alto for the team title.
Gallagher won in 12:44, just five seconds off her personal record (12:39) on the 2.18-mile course at Bol Park, which stretches out behind the Gunn campus. Making the victory and time even more impressive was the fact this was only the second race of the season for Gallagher, who previously had been sidelined while re-habbing a stress fracture in her foot.
"We were just hoping that she could run 13-flat," said Gunn assistant Ernie Lee. "The 12:44 today is great for only her second race."
"I've been cleared to run for six weeks," said Gallagher, who made her debut last week in a race at the Sunnyvale Baylands, during which Robinson won her third title this season. "Obviously, my season wasn't able to progress like I wanted it to, but I'm very happy (with her winning time)."
With Gallagher running to the individual title and teammates Melia Dunbar (13:29), Christine Prior (13:34) and Torey Butner (14:03) finishing fifth, sixth and ninth, respectively, the Titans scored 32 points to hold off Palo Alto's 34.
Paly freshman Katie Foug was second in 13:09 and junior teammate Chika Kasahara was third in 13:21. Audrey DeBruin was seventh in 13:36 and Rachelle Holmgren 10th in 14:08, but Gunn's Ellie Ribbe finished 11th in 14:15 to edge Paly's Nora Rosati (14:16), which provided the difference in the race.
Castilleja's Julia Wood (fourth in 13:25) and Fiona Maloney-McCrystle (eighth in 13:49) likely hurt Paly's chances for the team title.
In the junior-senior boys' race, Gunn ran away with the title with a near-perfect 18 points while Paly finished second with 35.
Gunn senior Andrew Prior continued his strong season by winning in 10:44, which ranks No. 7 all-time on the course. Senior Peter Chen pulled off a big second place in 10:58 while edging Nikolai Solgaard of Paly, third in 11:11. Gunn pulled off a near sweep as fellow seniors Daniel Krigel (11:16), Rishi Agarwal (11:23) and Michael Underwood (11:24) finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.
Menlo School improved to 9-0 in the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) with a pair of victories over visiting Pinewood on Tuesday. Needing to make up a rainout, the Knights posted 6-1 and 7-0 victories in matches that were played in eight-game pro sets.
Menlo (17-4 overall) wrapped up its 18th straight league title with the sweep, with only Thursday's home match against Notre Dame-San Jose left on the regular schedule. The Knights are undefeated in league play since 1994 and are 187-0 during that time.
Menlo coach Bill Shine improved to 370-64 in his 16th season, winning league titles all 16 years.
Menlo was coming off a 3-1, fifth-place finish at last weekend's Dana Hills National Invitational in Southern California. The Knights beat Laguna Beach, 7-1, and Peninsula, 6-2, lost to eventual champion University (Irvine), 7-1, and won a default over Santa Barbara.
Elsewhere Tuesday, Sacred Heart Prep avenged an upset loss to Notre Dame-San Jose last week by beating the visiting Regents, 5-2, in WBAL (Foothill Division) action. Notre Dame-SJ swept the doubles last week in a 4-3 victory. The Gators turned the tables this time as Kate and Lucy Ackley won at No. 2 doubles and Kathleen Casey and Maddy Jones teamed to win at No. 3 as SHP improved to 5-4 in league (15-5 overall).
Defending CIF Division I state champion Palo Alto posted its ninth straight sweep in SCVAL De Anza Division action this season with a 25-18, 25-14, 25-16 win over host Monta Vista on Tuesday night in Cupertino. The Vikings (9-0, 22-3) remained a game ahead of second-place Los Gatos (8-1). The Wildcats will host the Vikings on Tuesday to decide the division title.
Seniors Maddie Kuppe and Melanie Wade led the way against the Matadors with 11 kills each with senior Caroline Martin adding four. Kuppe added two blocks and Wade contributed six aces. Paly will honor its eight seniors on Thursday in the team's Senior Night against Homestead at 6:45 p.m.
Joining fellow senior honorees Kuppe, Wade and Martin will be Tiffany Tsung, Ashley Shin, Ally Kron, Kimmie Whitson and Jackie Koenig. This is the most successful senior class in school history, having compiled a 63-4 record since last season.
Elsewhere in the SCVAL De Anza Division, Gunn (1-8, 11-14) will play host to Mountain View on Wednesday night at 6:45 p.m.
In the WBAL (Foothill Division), Sacred Heart Prep remained unbeaten and in control of the division race with a 25-20, 25-19 19-25, 25-21 over host Mercy-San Francisco on Tuesday. The Gators (8-0, 18-5) were led by seniors Sarah Daschbach, who had 27 kills, and Jesse Ebner with 14 kills. Senior Olivia Bertolacci had 23 digs. Payton Smith contributed 15 kills along with three blocks.
In Palo Alto, Gwen Hubbard saw her debut as Castilleja's interim head coach spoiled in a 25-16, 19-25, 26-24, 14-25, 15-10 loss to visiting Notre Dame-San Jose. The Gators fell to 4-4 in the division (17-12 overall) despite 20 kills, four blocks and two aces from senior Hannah Boland. Junior Lucy Tashman added 12 kills, senior Lindsey Wang had 11 kills and 25 digs while junior Hannah Hsieh contributed 45 assists.
Hubbard is subbing for her sister, Tracie Meskell, who gave birth to her first child (a son) on Saturday.
In Atherton, Menlo School knows that it will be hosting the CCS Division IV semifinals next month. The goal for the Knights, then, is to make sure they'll also be playing in them. Menlo took another step toward preparing for that with a 22-25, 25-11, 25-20, 25-14 victory over visiting Mercy-Burlingame on Tuesday night.
"Our team has four home matches out of five remaining," said Menlo coach Atlee Hubbard, "so our goal right now is to raise our confidence and aggressiveness at our home court. We know that CCS semifinals are hosted by Menlo and we want to make it there."
Maddie Huber had 10 kills, 17 digs, two aces and a block to spark the Knights (5-2, 19-6) while freshman setter Elisa Merten had 31 assists and Sarah Bruml added four aces.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton remained in control of first place with a 25-21, 25-17, 25-15 victory over host Burlingame. Junior Ali Spindt led the Bears (11-0, 19-4) with 13 kills, seven assists and five digs while sophomore Pauli King added 11 kills and five digs. Senior Seini Moimoi finished with six kills and four blocks.
Menlo-Atherton will travel on Thursday to face Carlmont (5:15 p.m.) in a match that will decide the division championship. The Scots (10-1, 18-7), who lost to the Bears in their first meeting, remain just a game back of first place and need a win to tie for the regular-season title.
Boys' water polo
Avenging an earlier loss to Palo Alto, Gunn got 20 blocks from goalie Harrison Waschura and the Titans' field players came up with another nine blocks in a big 5-3 victory over the host Vikings on Tuesday.
Following a 3-3 deadlock at halftime, Gunn's defense blanked the Vikings in the final two periods. Gavin Kerr had 2 goals for the Titans (7-4 in league), while Tyler Wilson and the Wayne brothers (Coby and Ari) each had one. Paly fell to 8-3 in the SCVAL De Anza Division (12-8 overall).
Girls' water polo
Getting five goals from senior Elizabeth Anderson, Gunn ruined Senior Day for host Palo Alto with a 9-6 victory in SCVAL De Anza Division action on Tuesday. The Titans remained in second place at 9-1 (17-6) heading into Thursday's showdown against first-place Los Altos in the Titans' pool at 3:30 p.m. Paly fell to 5-5 in league (11-9 overall.
Sophomore Caroline Anderson added two goals for Gunn, which will celebrate its Senior Day prior to the Los Altos match.
"This was a good game for our team, and a great win for our program," said Gunn coach Mark Hernandez. "Due to the vagaries of our schedule, we hadn't been challenged in a while, and Palo Alto was more than ready to challenge us. They played with a lot of energy, and were obviously inspired by their characteristically enthusiastic crowd. So, in that light, our team proved a lot. We beat an improved team on their senior night in as tough as an environment as we're likely to see.
"These are the types of games a coach loves to have; a tough, spirited game that tests your team. Getting the win tonight will go a long way in helping our team perform well at the league tournament (next week at Gunn) and CCS."
Gunn's victory over Paly was its seventh in the past eight games.
"But, more importantly," Hernandez said, "this was the first of those seven that was in their house. That means a lot to us."
In the PAL Bay Division, Anna Yu scored three goals and Sydney Molano added two, but it wasn't enough for Castilleja as the Gators dropped an 11-7 decision to host Burlingame. Teresa Krause had seven goalie saves for Castilleja (2-2, 7-8).
Also in the PAL, Menlo School has won only three matches this season, but No. 3 proved to be a big one as the Knights held off host Aragon, 14-10, Tuesday and thus qualified for a Central Coast Section play-in match. The Knights (1-3, 3-14) will play Burlingame or Hillsdale next Thursday. If they win, they move into the first round of the CCS playoffs.
Menlo freshman Yasmine El-Hage had a standout day in goal, and her passes fueled Menlo's counterattack. Fellow freshman Jennie Greenstein had her first goal of the season, scoring on a 5-meter penalty shot. Senior Ilana Crankshaw collected four goals, and juniors Alyssa Meyer and Kaelen Dunn each had a hat trick for the Knights, who got goals from seven different players.
In nonleague action, host Menlo-Atherton (9-8) got three goals from Marie Popp and two from Danielle Flanagan in a 6-1 victory over St. Ignatius. Goalie Sierra Sheeper had 10 saves and Brittany Krappe tallied once as the Bears pulled away from a 2-1 halftime lead by outscoring the Wildcats, 3-0, in the third period.