First-year Palo Alto boys water polo head coach Aaron Johnson said he felt no added pressure coaching head-to-head against his older brother, Matt Johnson, and his Gunn squad for the first time.
But, even though he was relaxed, the brotherly element of the contest still added an extra layer of intrigue for the younger Johnson.
"It did make the game a little more interesting and fun having him on the other side with the brotherly rivalry throughout the years," Aaron said.
Older brother Matt and the Titans won the first matchup between the two siblings, as Gunn defeated Paly, 14-5, to remain undefeated in SCVAL De Anza Division action. Although the Vikings were the home team, the game was played at Gunn due to the ongoing athletics complex construction at Paly.
"There wasn't really any extra (motivation) going up against him," Matt said. "Our guys get up for it a little more because it's Paly, but it doesn't matter who's coaching the game to me."
The Vikings sorely missed two of their top performers as senior captain Winston Rosati and sophomore Jack Anderson did not play Thursday afternoon. Rosati was away on a college visit to John Hopkins University, while Anderson suffered a broken nose in Paly's win over Mountain View on Tuesday.
Without two of their top goal-scorers, the Vikings struggled to find an offensive rhythm against a solid Titans' defense.
"We've really been focusing on defense this year," Matt said. "We did a really nice job of positioning ourselves well, denying passing lanes and avoiding bad ejections."
Gunn was led offensively by Calder Hilde-Jones with five goals. The senior dominated near the net and scored on a variety of shots, including a beautiful no-look backhand goal early in the second quarter.
Paly junior Tommy Smale led the Vikings with three goals, while Kevin Bowers and Cameron Khan each chipped in one.
The game started as a low-scoring affair, with two Gunn goals by Jack Mallery and Young Lee accounted for the only scoring in the first six minutes of play.
However, the Titans began to find success with their counter attacks, and a 5-1 run to end the second quarter gave Gunn a 9-2 halftime advantage.
"Gunn has a lot of chemistry and they've been playing together for a long time," Aaron said. "If we got going a little sooner it could have been a different game. But, they're a very good team at coming out and firing."
Paly opened the third quarter with a goal from Smale to cut the deficit to six, but Gunn responded with four unanswered goals over the next four minutes to take a 13-3 lead. Only a combined three goals were scored the rest of the way as Gunn cruised to the victory.
The Palo Alto rivals will again square off in three weeks on Oct. 15. The coaching brothers agreed that the rematch likely would be more competitive with Anderson and Rosati in the lineup for Paly.
"This is just our first look at them so it's a great way for us to make adjustments throughout the next part of the season until we see them again," Aaron said. "We have a lot of stuff we need to tweak, so we'll have to make those adjustments as quick as we can before we see them again."
With Sophie Frick tossing in three goals, the Palo Alto girls upended defending SCVAL De Anza Division water polo champ Gunn, 6-5, on Thursday night in the Titans' pool.
"It was a good win; I'm very happy for the girls," said Paly coach Aileen Delaney. "Probably our biggest strength is how we play as a united team, and that is really what helped us get the win last night. We played pretty solid defense and were able to put away some great shots on a talented goalie.
"One thing I was pleased with was how we were able to bounce back and get momentum after going down two goals at the start of the game. One highlight was Sophie Frick's skip shot. That gave us a spark and was followed up by two more Paly goals, the last one being scored by Gigi Rojahn. That gave us a three-goal lead in the fourth quarter but, unfortunately, we allowed them to get back into the game, though we were able to hold onto the win."
The Vikings (3-1, 8-3) pulled into a tie with Gunn (2-1, 4-2) following their first of two meetings during the regular season. Claire Drebin, Katie Francis and Gigi Rojahn all had one goal each for Paly, which fell to Gunn in both regular-season meetings last year as the Titans compiled their first-ever 12-0 league season.
"The win feels good, but each game is part of the process of improvement through out the season," said Delaney. "So, we hope to continue to learn and grow as a team. For me, it is always a bit emotional/challenging facing Gunn, just because so many of their players were on my Terman water polo team. I'm just happy that they have found a love of water polo and want to be successful student-athletes."