Last year was for fun; this year the Gunn girls volleyball team has already surprised itself and looks to surprise its opponents.
"Last year was part of a rebuilding season for us," Titans team co-captain Micaela Leong said Tuesday after a 25-21, 19-25, 25-9, 25-11 victory over host Woodside in a nonleague match. "We had a lot of new players, lots of freshmen and sophomores. It was really more to get younger players acclimated to the varsity."
After Gunn won the Central Coast Section Division I title in 2019 as an El Camino Division team, the Titans were deemed fit for the more competitive De Anza Division in the spring, despite losing most of its team to graduation.
The Titans finished 1-10, winning just seven sets during the six-week season.
"Everybody played," Gunn coach Baiba Zake McGibben said. "We were not playing for wins; we were playing for fun and getting everyone on the court. We didn't practice at all. I wanted to be careful with the club season overlapping."
Gunn (5-4) opens Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division at Homestead on Thursday (6:45 p.m.) with much more experience and confidence.
"Spikefest showed us we were capable of more than we first thought," Leong said. "We had good showings against good teams. It was a big confidence boost."
Leong is one of six seniors who give the Titans a lot of experience and one of only two players (with junior Heidi Purnama) remaining from Gunn's CCS title team.
"We were going in as the underdog," Leong recalled. "We're hoping to do it again this year and surprise some teams."
McGibben said with Leong on the court as a fourth-year varsity player, she likes the team's chances.
"Her defense is phenomenal and she really keeps the team together," McGibben said. "And now the sophomores are starting to step up."
Against Woodside, sophomores Celine Safa, Sophia Yen and Sophia Hahn combined for 17 kills while senior Kaylin Hallada led Gunn with 12 kills. Junior Sabrina Fong added five kills.
Senior co-captain Hannah Zhang and junior Kyra Xue combined to produce 28 assists.
Michaela Velleno and Arielle Bruk were heavy hitters for the Wildcats (0-3), who open Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division play at Menlo-Atherton on Thursday (6:15 p.m.).
The Bears (3-6) dropped a 25-7, 25-21, 25-13 decision to host Mitty (9-0) in a nonleague match Tuesday.
Mountain View remained unbeaten on the season, topping visiting Pioneer 25-11, 25-14, 25-18 in a nonleague match. The Spartans (4-0) open SCVAL play at Los Gatos Thursday (6:45 p.m.).
Los Altos beat host Westmont 25-13, 25-11, 25-10 in a nonleague match. The Eagles (5-4) host Leigh in a nonleague match Thursday at 6:45 p.m.
Mid-Peninsula beat visiting Summit Prep 25-17, 25-15, 19-25, 25-21 and host Priory lost to Half Moon Bay 25-9, 25-13, 25-23 in other nonleague matches.
Castilleja vs. Fremont
Hadley Nunn recorded 12 kills and Eveliena Pasmooij added 10 kills as Castilleja beat visiting Fremont 25-27, 25-17, 25-18, 25-17 in a nonleague match Tuesday.
Devin Nuckles added 19 digs and three aces for the Gators (5-3), who host Nueva at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Claire Sun had seven kills, 21 assists, 15 digs and four aces. Ruby Flath added six kills and three aces.
St. Francis at Menlo
St. Francis and Menlo School are two of the premier teams in the section and Tuesday's match in Atherton showed it.
The Lancers were pushed to the limit and managed to rally from behind in all three sets for a 27-25, 25-23, 25-23 nonleague victory over the host Knights.
Menlo senior Simone Adam delivered a team-high 14 kills and four blocks. Senior Sharon Nejad and junior Emma Donley combined for 11 kills.
Seniors Hanna Hoffman had 18 assists and Zoe Gregory added 16. Senior Alli McKenney and junior Brooke Dombkowski had 10 and eight digs, respectively.
Menlo took a 22-16 advantage and held match point at 24-20 in Set 1 before St. Francis came roaring back.
Saint Francis, which improved to 6-2 overall, was coming off a five-set win over Palo Alto at home. The Lancers open West Catholic Athletic League play at Sacred Heart Cathedral next Wednesday (Sept. 15) at 6 p.m.
Menlo (7-2) travels to Mitty for a nonleague match Thursday at 4 p.m. The undefeated Monarchs beat the Knights at Spikefest.
Girls water polo
Castilleja and Gunn each opened SCVAL De Anza Division play with a victory. Castilleja beat host Palo Alto 16-3 and the Titans topped host Mountain View 16-4.
Gunn won the division last year with a victory over second-place Castilleja in the final week of the season.
Kenza Ashworth scored eight goals to lead Gunn while Sawyer McKenna produced six assists and six steals. Goalie Jayden Kratt had 10 saves.
Sydney Lowell led Castilleja with six goals while Gabby Lewis added three goals. Annika Burks, Caitlyn Chau and Talula Seale each scored twice and Janet Meng also scored.
Sutchie Ofori-Nyako recorded 11 saves for the Gators.
Castilleja hosts Gunn at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Boys water polo
Cole Vale and Blake Snyder each scored seven goals as Gunn opened its De Anza Division season with a 20-7 victory at Mountain View on Tuesday.
Rowan Brougham and Nadav Efrat each added a pair of goals for the Titans, who host St. Francis in a nonleague match Friday.
Woodside beat host Hillsdale 19-7 in a nonleague match.
St. Francis beat Mitty 211-225 at the Los Altos Country Club on Tuesday. The Lancers (2-0 in the WCAL) meet St. Ignatius at the Olympic Club on Monday.
Katie Spivakovsky shot a 40 and Nathalie Benrey fired a round of 42 in Menlo-Atherton's 252-262 loss to Hillsdale at Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club.
Palo Alto beat host Gunn 7-0 in a nonleague match Tuesday.
Erin Li, Iris Li, Riya De Datta and Agnes Mar each won their singles matches in straight sets.
Gunn played without two of its top singles players.