In recent years, a handful of local volleyball teams have reached the state finals. The Palo Alto girls accomplished that in 2010 and '11, Sacred Heart Prep in 2010 and '12 and Menlo School last year.
Menlo-Atherton may be figuring it's finally time to join that elite group after starting the season 4-0 with solid wins against big-time opponents.
The Bears already have beaten defending Division III state champ Valley Christian, '13 state runner-up Menlo and Los Gatos, which handed Palo Alto its only loss during a remarkable 41-1 campaign in 2010.
On Tuesday night, M-A took down another perennial power, 2010 Division II state champ St. Francis, 25-21, 25-20, 19-25, 17-25, 15-11.
The Bears got 14 kills from Leanna Collins and teammate Devin Joos. Ally Ostrow finished with eight digs and seven kills plus three aces for the Bears while setter Kirby Knapp dished out 32 assists.
Menlo-Atherton will continue its string of tough foes when it host St. Ignatius on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. On Saturday, the Bears will compete in the annual Chris Chandler Invitational at Menlo School.
Menlo School, meanwhile, visited Sacred Heart Cathedral on Tuesday and returned home from San Francisco with a 25-13, 25-21, 25-15 nonleague loss. Lida Vandermeer had eight kills and Dea Dressel five for the Knights (2-5) while Elisa Merten provided 18 kills and Jessica Houghton had 11 digs.
Headed for the Harbor Invitational this weekend is Sacred Heart Prep, which is off to a 7-2 start under first-year coach Ali Magner.
The Gators tuned up for the weekend with a 25-19, 25-19, 25-15 nonleague win over visiting Carlmont. Victoria Garrick led the way with 11 kills and 24 digs while fellow senior Natalie Marshall contributed 13 assists, five kills and 11 digs. Junior Jorden Schreeder finished with 15 digs and freshman Cate Desler added six kills.
In Sunnyvale, Pinewood remained unbeaten after four matches following a 25-14, 25-15, 25-14 nonleague triumph over host Fremont. Mehra den Braven once again led the Panthers, registering 15 kills.
In Palo Alto, Castilleja (9-6) posted a 25-15, 23-25, 26-24, 25-19 nonleague victory over San Mateo. Madeline Johnson led the Gators with 19 kills, 21 digs and four aces. Jennifer DiSanto added 16 digs and Ashley Hu contributed 12.
The Palo Alto at King's Academy and Priory at El Camino matches were not reported.
One day after suffering a tough league-opening loss to rival Gunn, Palo Alto bounced back with a solid 216-232 nonleague triumph over host Sacred Heart Prep at Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club.
Palo Alto senior Michelle Xie, who is headed for Harvard next fall, led the Vikings (2-1) with an even-par 36. She recorded five birdies in the first seven holes. Emily Hwang (39) and freshman Stephanie Yu (41) also had solid efforts while Jessica Koenig led SHP (1-1) with a 42 and Cami Steppe shot 44.
In San Jose, Castilleja opened its West Bay Athletic League season with a 216-293 win over Notre Dame-San Jose at San Jose Muni. Castilleja senior Chloe Sales and freshman Cosi Layton led the way with rounds of 41. Paris Wilkerson added a 42 and Danielle Mitchell a 44.
Sacred Heart Prep (4-0) continued its solid start to the season with a 6-1 nonleague win at Cupertino. Tara Ritchey, Alison McLaughlin and Melina Stavropoulos took the No. 2-4 singles in straight sets while losing only a combined six games.
In San Mateo, Menlo-Atherton remained perfect after two PAL Bay Division matches following a 6-1 triumph over host Aragon. Sami Andrew, Julia Marks and Laila Volpe swept the top three singles spots as the Bears moved to 2-4 overall.
In Milpitas, Palo Alto opened its SCVAL El Camino Division season with a 4-3 victory over the host Trojans. Avanika Narayan and Kelsey Wang won in straight sets in singles while the doubles teams of Lucy Fox-Sarah Tayeri and Emma Cockerell-Jacki Cai did the same to lock up the win for Paly (1-0, 1-3).
After visiting Mountain View on Thursday, the Vikings will host their own invitational on Friday and Saturday.
In Cupertino, Gunn dropped its SCVAL De Anza Division opener to defending CCS and NorCal champ Monta Vista, 7-0.
Boys water polo
Gunn got its first win of the season at the expense of visiting Los Altos in a SCVAL De Anza Division opener on Tuesday. The Titans (1-0, 1-3) got six goals from Ari Wayne and three from Calder Hilde-Jones while goalie Anthony Zunino came up with 10 saves in the 15-5 triumph.
In Millbrae, Menlo-Atherton opened its PAL Bay Division season by swamping host Mills, 25-8. Mostyn Fero led the Bears (1-0, 3-3) with five goals.
In Sunnyvale, Palo Alto defeated host Homestead to open its season.
Girls water polo
Gunn opened defense of its SCVAL De Anza Division title with a 5-3 victory over visiting Los Altos on Tuesday. Nia Gardner led the Titans (1-0, 6-2) with two goals.
In Sunnyvale, Palo Alto also opened its De Anza Division season with a solid 14-6 win over host Homestead. Tess van Hulsen led the Vikings (1-0, 2-3) with six goals with sophomore Izzy Kelley added three.
The Menlo-Atherton at Hillsdale match was not reported.