The Castilleja water polo team needed a new league in which to play. The Peninsula Athletic League, in an effort to remain an all-San Mateo County league, kicked them out after the Gators won their sixth consecutive PAL title.
The Santa Clara Valley Athletic League accepted Castilleja this year, strengthening an already potent De Anza Division.
Defending co-De Anza Division champion Gunn beat visiting Castilleja, the defending Bay Division champion, 13-10, in a wildly entertaining game Tuesday.
The teams were tied at 7-7 midway through the third quarter when sophomore Kenza Ashworth scored twice within 90 seconds to put the Titans (3-0) ahead to stay.
Castilleja, a Division V school, suffered its first setback in a league full of Division I teams.
“We just want to play,” Castilleja coach Brenda Villa said. “They (PAL) tried to kick us out last year too.”
So far, there are just not enough teams with a water polo program in the West Bay Athletic League, where Castilleja plays everything else in its athletic lineup, to sponsor the sport.
Castilleja developed a pretty good rivalry with Menlo-Atherton in the PAL, but even though the Gators are in Palo Alto, there’s no natural rivalry with either Paly or Gunn.
There are, though, many connections between Gunn and Castilleja through the youth water polo system.
Villa, a Stanford grad, a Hall of Famer and an Olympic gold medalist, coached Emma Ford, who coaches the Gunn JV team and is an assistant for her father, Chris Ford, on varsity.
“People here know who Brenda Villa is,” said Chris Ford. “They know what she’s done for water polo. She was a great player, is a great coach and does a lot for the community. I have a picture of my daughter with Brenda, who is holding her gold medal from 2012.”
Villa has also helped other Gunn players at one time or another through her Menlo Park-based water polo club.
Kate Mallery scored six goals to pace the Titans, who travel to Los Gatos for an important game Saturday. Los Gatos shared the title with Gunn last year.
Gabby Lewis led Castilleja with three goals. Abena Ofori-Nyako recorded seven saves.