For quite some time, the Gunn girls volleyball team has been only the second-best squad in Palo Alto as the crosstown Vikings dominated the rivalry.
From 2006 through last season, Palo Alto beat Gunn 16 straight times in SCVAL De Anza Division action. The last time the Titans prevailed was Oct. 25, 2005.
That eight-year losing streak finally came to an end on Tuesday night as the Titans handed the visiting Vikings a 25-21, 25-23, 25-21 defeat in the division opener for both teams.
"It was a great night," said Jill Naylor, Gunn's athletic director. "Both schools played incredibly well. The (Gunn) student cheer section ran onto the floor and surrounded the girls with incredible celebration. It gave me the chills. Looked like something you'd see after a college game."
"It was so rewarding to see the students charge the floor," said Gunn coach Craig Bankowski. "I've never seen that for high school volleyball."
The Titans (1-0, 9-4) were led by seniors Meghan Mahoney (14 kills), Jessica Dinneen (six kills and numerous blocks), and setter Nicole Brigham (28 assists). Gunn led from the start in close, hard-fought games. Middle blocker Elise Griffin was solid up front, as well, for Gunn.
"We practice hard and prepare well for our season in the toughest division," Bankowski said. "I was impressed we beat Paly in straight sets as our players were confident with high energy every point."
Also contributing to the victory was senior Tahra Knudsen, junior Anna Tevanian, junior Rachel Gates and sophomore Emma Munch.
Paly senior captain Jade Schoenberger led the Vikings (0-1, 10-4) in kills.
"Both Gunn and Paly had injuries to star players, but we saw great defense on both sides of the net," Bankowski said. "We will continue to focus on the next play, the next practice, the next match . . . one day at a time constantly improving as a team."
In another league opener, Menlo-Atherton opened up defense of its PAL Bay Division title with a 25-17, 25-16, 25-23 victory over host Burlingame on Tuesday night.
Senior Devin Joos paced the Bears (1-0, 10-1) with 18 kills and 16 digs while sophomore setter Kirby Knapp finished with 45 assists and nine digs. Ally Ostrow had 12 kills and hit .450 while Leanna Collins had 10 kills, Jackie DiSanto finished with 16 digs and Kaitlin Tavarez added 18 digs.
In nonleague action:
With Victoria Garrick producing 23 kills and 14 digs and fellow senior Natalie Marshall adding 19 assists and five kills, Sacred Heart Prep rolled to a 25-11, 25-16, 25-15 victory over visiting Mercy-Burlingame. Lilika Teu finished with 10 assists and seven digs while Jorden Schreeder contributed 11 digs for the Gators (13-4), who wrap up their nonleague schedule Thursday at Los Gatos.
In Mountain View, defending CCS Division IV champion Menlo School continued to fall on hard times during the preseason as the Knights dropped a 23-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-20 match to host St. Francis. The Knights (6-7) got 27 kills from Lida Vandermeer, 40 assists from Elisa Merten and 21 digs from Jessica Houghton. Menlo's tough schedule continues Thursday with a match at defending CIF State Division III champ Valley Christian.
In Palo Alto, Madeline Johnson came up with 17 kills and Sarah Rose added 13, but Castilleja still suffered a tough 25-22, 25-23, 25-21 loss to visiting Notre Dame-Belmont, which was coming off a title at the Chris Chandler Invitational on Saturday. The Gators fell to 11-10 overall.