The Central Coast Section has toughened up its qualifying standards this year, with each league getting only one automatic berth with only five at-large berths available. In previous seasons, the regular-season champ got a free pass to CCS along with the winner of the league tournament.
While the decision on how the league champion is decided rests with each individual league, Gunn and Castilleja perhaps have different paths to the CCS Tournament that will be held Oct. 30 at Rancho Canada (East Course) in Carmel Valley.
Despite winning the Blossom Valley Athletic League (Santa Teresa Division) regular-season title with a 10-0 mark, Gunn (13-1) still has to win the BVAL Tournament next Wednesday at Santa Teresa Golf Course to reach CCS.
Gunn, in only its first season of existence, wrapped up its first regular title with a 204-299 win over host Sobrato at Coyote Creek Golf Course in San Jose.
Anna Zhou, who aced a 279-yard, par-4 on Monday at Santa Clara Golf & Tennis Club for a rare double-eagle and finished with a 2-under 34, joined with Tiffany Yang on Wednesday to shoot 1-over 35s. Jayshree Sarathy finished with a 38.
Lianna McFarlane (44) and Sandrea Herchen (50) rounded out the scoring for Gunn, which next season will move closer to home for its own league — the SCVAL.
Castilleja (9-0, 10-0), meanwhile, remained unbeaten and clinched its sixth straight West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) title with a 216-230 win over Sacred Heart Prep at Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club on Wednesday.
Caroline Debs (40), Taylor Wilkerson (44), Ellie Zales (46) and Nicole Mitchell (47) rounded out the scoring for Castilleja, which concludes round-robin play on Friday at Los Lagos GC against host Harker before joining Sacred Heart Prep in the WBAL Tournament at Poplar Creek GC in San Mateo next Wednesday. Castilleja defeated Harker on Monday, 219-252, at Palo Alto Muni.
Jessica Koenig and Maddy Ellison each shot 41 to pace SHP.
Elsewhere, Menlo School rebounded from a tough loss to Sacred Heart Prep a day earlier and posted a 252-292 victory over Mercy-Burlingame in a WBAL Foothill Division match played at Palo Alto Muni's par-37 front nine on Wednesday.
Menlo evened it's season record at 5-5. Mercy's Miranda Wiss was medalist with a 42 and Caroline Broderick and Christina Schwab each shot 44 for the Knights. Menlo next plays in the WBAL Tournament.
The Palo Alto girls didn't have any runners among the top 10, but still finished second at the SCVAL Preview No. 2 meet on Tuesday over a 3.1-mile layout at Sunnyvale's Baylands Park.
The Vikings scored 89 points while trailing only Monta Vista (73). Nora Rosati led Paly with a 12th-place finish of 20:38. Katie Foug (15th, 20:43.1), Chika Kasahara (16th, 20:43.6), Audrey DeBruine (20th, 21:18) and Emma Ramey (26th, 21:25) rounded out the Vikings' scoring.
The Gunn girls, still missing junior standout Sarah Robinson, finished fifth in the team scoring and were led by Gillian Meeks. She took sixth in 20:12. Robinson has run in one one meet this season due to a medical condition and first-year coach Craig Blockhus is unsure if Robinson will run again this season.
Paly and Gunn both will compete in the Monterey Bay Invitational on Friday at Toro Park in Salinas, site of the Central Coast Section Championships next month.
In the boys' race, Palo Alto finished ninth and Gunn 10th. David Lee-Heidenreich led the Titans with a 13th place of 17:23, while Paly was led by Nate Cook's 20th place in 17:33.
There is no more room for losses for a handful of local teams hoping to challenge for titles this season. Must win is attached to nearly every game starting Friday.
If Palo Alto (2-1, 4-2) has any thoughts of winning the SCVAL De Anza Division crown, it has to beat visiting Los Gatos (2-0, 4-2) in their showdown at 7:30 p.m. The Wildcats have to face co-leader Milpitas (3-0, 5-1) next week, which could result in a three-way tie for first should Paly beat Los Gatos.
Paly is coming off a big 38-12 win over host Wilcox last week.
If Gunn continues to harbor hopes of a possible SCVAL De Anza Division title, the Titans (2-0, 4-2) have to beat Los Altos (0-2, 0-5) in a homecoming game at 7:30 p.m. Gunn's remaining games are against Monta Vista (2-0), Cupertino (2-1) and Fremont (2-1).
If Menlo-Atherton wants to win the PAL Bay Division crown, the Bears (2-0, 4-2) need to keep winning — starting Friday at Half Moon Bay (0-1, 1-5) at 7 p.m. M-A has won three straight — including last week's 28-14 win over Burlingame — but finishes the division against Sacred Heart Prep and co-leader Terra Nova.
Sacred Heart Prep (1-1, 5-1) will need someone to beat Terra Nova to have any shot at the Bay Division crown after dropping a 20-13 decision to the Tigers last week. The Gators host Aragon (1-1, 5-1) in a crucial matchup Friday at 3 p.m., before hosting M-A on Oct. 27.
In the PAL Ocean Division, Menlo School (1-1, 5-1) will need some help after losing to first-place South San Francisco last week, 43-39. The Knights visit King's Academy (1-0, 1-5) on Friday at 7 p.m.
Gunn's run toward perfection in the SCVAL El Camino Division ended on Wednesday in a 4-3 loss to host Homestead. The match originally was scheduled for next week.
The loss dropped the Titans to 10-1 in the division (12-8 overall) and into a tie for first place with the Mustangs (10-1, 12-5). Each team has one match remaining and both are expected to win, thus setting up a playoff for the title — possibly on Oct. 29 at Fremont High.
Gunn managed just one win in singles, by Lucy Oyer at No. 3, and thus needed to sweep the doubles. The Mustangs, however, picked up a win at No. 1 doubles over Gunn's Ebba Nord and Devyani Bhadkamkar, 6-4, 7-5, to pull out the victory.
In the WBAL Skyline Division, Castilleja maintained its hold on first place following a 6-1 victory over host King's Academy at the Sunnyvale Municipal Tennis Center. Paulette Wolak, Julia McKay and Celeste Wolyshen all won in doubles to lead the Gators (5-0, 5-3).
On Tuesday, Menlo-Atherton avenged a first-round loss to Carlmont on its own courts by handing the host Scots a 4-3 loss on their courts, forcing a two-way tie for first place in the PAL Bay Division race.
Carlmont and M-A are both 11-1 in league.
Perhaps the most crucial match for the Bears (13-5 overall) came at No. 1 singles where M-A's Samantha Andrew upset Cori Sidell, 6-3, 6-3. Sidell is considered the No. 1 singles player in the league.
The Bears' Valerie Giordano also earned a tough victory at No. 4 singles, 6-1, 2-6, 6-1. In doubles, Maria Londono Tobon and Madeleine Samuelian posted a 6-1, 6-4 victory while the No. 3 tandem of Caroline Kelly and Amelia Tiemann also won, 6-0, 6-3.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Palo Alto won its third straight match and avenged an earlier loss to Los Altos with a 4-3 triumph on the Eagles' courts. Junior standout Ashlii Budhiraja posted a 6-4, 6-1 win at No. 1 singles for the Vikings (4-5, 13-7) while senior Tiffany Nguyen and junior Julianne Le teamed for a 7-5, 7-6 (7-3) win at No. 1 doubles.
On Monday, Menlo School moved closer to winning its 19th straight league title following a 7-0 blanking of visiting Notre Dame-San Jose in WBALeague (Foothill Division). The Knights (7-0, 12-7) improved to 195-0 in league dual matches since 1994 while coach Bill Shine earned his 385th career win (in 17 years) with Menlo.
Sophomore Liz Yao, senior Giannina Ong and junior Laura Gradiska all won their singles matches 6-0, 6-0. The Knights fell short of perfection in singles when junior Christine Eliazo won, 6-0, 6-2.
Menlo-Atherton, Palo Alto and Sacred Heart Prep all held on to first place by one game in their respective leagues following quick victories on Tuesday night.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton (9-0, 19-7) made quick work of visiting Terra Nova with a 25-20, 25-13, 25-11 triumph. Senior Katelyn Doherty had 12 digs, 11 assists and seven kills for the Bears, who hold a one-game lead over Burlingame.
Junior Pauli King, who continues to recover from an early season shoulder injury, contributed 18 digs and seven kills to the win while Virginia Lane had 13 digs, Ally Ostrow had 13 digs and nine kills and Kaitlin Tavarez finished with five aces and 20 assists.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Palo Alto maintained its one-game lead over Los Gatos and Homestead with a 25-11, 25-17, 25-14 victory over host Monta Vista.
Senior co-captain Shelby Knowles had 12 kills and nine digs for the Vikings (8-1, 19-4) while junior Becca Raffel had 15 kills. The Vikings had only eight hitting errors in 98 attempts. Senior co-captain Sophia Bono added 37 assists while junior Keri Gee finished with 18 digs and three aces.
In the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division), Sacred Heart Prep maintained its one-game lead over Menlo School with a 25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 25-12 triumph over host Priory.
Ellie Shannon paced the Gators (6-0, 23-4) with 18 kills and four blocks, Payton Smith added 11 kills and six blocks, Helen Gannon provided 24 digs and Cammie Merten finished with 40 assists.
Marine Hall-Poirier led Priory (2-4, 15-7) with 17 kills and 13 digs while Briana Willhite finished with 11 kills and hit .380. Setter Stephanie Swan contributed 45 assists while libero Michaela Koval was solid in serve-receive passing and added nine digs.
Second-place Menlo School bounced back from a close league loss last week to SHP and beat host Notre Dame-San Jose, 25-22, 25-21, 25-23.
In another WBAL match, outside hitter Emma Thygesen led the Knights (5-1, 16-6) with 12 kills and a .407 hitting percentage. Maddie Huber, a junior, followed with nine kills and five aces. Menlo served and blocked aggressively, finishing with 13 aces and eight blocks.
The Knights next head to Arizona for the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions this weekend.
Elsewhere in the WBAL Foothill Division, Castilleja continued its resurgence and won its third straight with a 16-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-19, 15-13 triumph over host Mercy-San Francisco.
Senior Lucy Tashman paced the Gators (2-4, 14-12) with 21 kills and 18 digs while Katya Scocimara added eight kills, Jen DiSanto finished with 32 digs and three aces while Hannah Hsieh contributed 44 assists.
In other matches Tuesday:
Gunn got 19 kills from Lena Latour in a 25-21, 21-25, 25-9, 31-29 loss to visiting Los Altos as the Titans fell to 3-6 in the SCVAL De Anza Division (10-11 overall).
In the WBAL Skyline Division, Pinewood dropped a 25-15, 25-21, 25-9 decision to visiting Harker.
Girls' water polo
Jenna Swartz, Sophia Caryotakis and Jessica Heilman all scored three goals to pace host Menlo-Atherton to a 17-3 dunking of visiting Carlmont on Wednesday.
The victory, coupled with previously unbeaten Castilleja's loss to Burlingame, moved the Bears (3-0, 10-6) into sole possession of first place in the PAL Bay Division race.
In Burlingame, Castilleja (2-1, 9-8) battled the Panthers to a 6-6 halftime deadlock before being outscored in the third quarter, 2-0. That proved to be the difference in the match as the Gators fell, 9-7. Anna Yu scored three goals for Castilleja and Sydney Molano added two, while goalie Maddie Tarr had 12 saves.
In the PAL Ocean Division, Menlo School won its fourth straight with a 12-7 victory over visiting Half Moon Bay. The Knights improved to 8-2 in league (9-5 overall) as Audrey Flower scored four goals and Kaelen Dunn added three. Lindsay Montgomery had 11 goalie saves for Menlo, which grabbed a 9-2 halftime lead.
In the West Catholic Athletic League, host Sacred Heart Prep held on to first place with an 18-2 swamping of Notre Dame-Belmont. The Gators (5-0, 13-4) got four goals from Morgan McCracken and Caitlin Stuewe.
On Tuesday, Gunn saw its perfect season in the SCVAL De Anza Division disappear in a 9-8 upset loss to host Los Gatos on Tuesday.
The Titans (8-1, 12-5) held a 6-4 halftime lead and took a 7-5 advantage into the fourth quarter before giving up four goals to the Wildcats. Junior Caroline Anderson scored four goals to pace the Titans, who still lead the division.
In another De Anza Division match, Palo Alto (6-3, 10-8) suffered a 5-3 loss to host Lynbrook.
Boys' water polo
Sacred Heart Prep maintained its one-game lead over St. Francis and Bellarmine in the West Catholic Athletic League following a 17-9 dunking of host Serra on Wednesday night. The Gators improved to 5-0 (16-3 overall) as Harrison Enright and Michael Holloway each scored four goals. Zach Churukian and Bret Hinrichs added three each as the Gators tuned up for this weekend's North vs. South Challenge in Atherton.
Will Runkel had 12 saves in goal and Will Conner tossed in a pair of goals for SHP, which is the top seed for the North in the 16-team, two-day weekend tourney that features undefeated and defending champ Mater Dei.
In the PAL Bay Division, host Menlo-Atherton held on to sole possession of first place with a 14-3 victory over Carlmont. Harrison Holland-McCowan and John Knox each tallied three goals for the Bears (3-0, 9-7).
In San Mateo, second-place Menlo School remained a game back of M-A following a 16-3 dunking of host Aragon. Andreas Katsis scored a season-high seven goals for the Knights (2-1, 9-8). Menlo also will be competing in the North-South
On Tuesday, Palo Alto hung tough for a half, but was held scoreless in the final period and dropped a 12-8 decision to host Monta Vista in SCVAL De Anza Division play Tuesday. Bret Pinsker scored five goals to pace the Vikings (6-4, 12-6).