Castilleja took round one of what figures to be a season-long, three-way battle for supremacy of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division girls water polo race.
Sydney Lowell and Talula Seale each scored three goals in helping the Gators (2-0, 2-0) beat defending SCVAL De Anza Division champion Gunn 9-7 Thursday.
Los Gatos, also 2-0 in the division, is in the title equation. Castilleja and Los Gatos tied for second behind Gunn last season, splitting two one-goal games.
Amy Chinn, who takes over for Brenda Villa at Castilleja, is no stranger to the school. She served as Villa's assistant for a few years and, most recently, was an assistant at Menlo School. She graduated from Hillsdale and played water polo at Cal State East Bay.
Castilleja senior co-captains Sutchie Ofori-Nyako and Gabby Lewis both played for Chinn with the Stanford Water Polo club team.
"These Casti girls are incredible," Chinn said. "They're just awesome people and they make it real easy. I feel super lucky to have the group of girls I have. They are extremely talented and they want to learn. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season and seeing how far we can go. I think we can go pretty far."
The team also came together over the summer, which Ofori-Nyako, who recorded seven saves against Gunn (1-1, 1-1), said made it a smooth transition.
"That kind of got us together before we all came back for the start of the season," she said. "I've been playing with Amy for four years and it's been very smooth. As captains, we try to educate that smoothness into the group as well."
Castilleja dominated play in the Peninsula Athletic League, winning six straight titles under Villa before being shipped off to the SCVAL. Last season showed the Division V Gators could compete with any team in the section.
"We had some very close games with Los Gatos and hopefully we can bring it home this year and win league," said Lewis, who scored once and also had two assists (as did Seale).
Castilleja turned the frustration of last season into a positive, which Ofori-Nyako said was a blessing.
"We were really, really happy to be back after being away so long," she said. "Every day was a blessing just to be in the pool. Every day I come to practice I'm really grateful for my teammates."
Added Lewis: "Even when we couldn't compete for so long last year, we were able to come to the pool and work through a lot of drills, which got us back to the basics of the sport. Being there, even without being able to play, helped bring us together."
Gunn came in minus a couple of players and then lost another one at the beginning of the final period when it was determined one of the Titans had used all her exclusions, something Gunn coach Chris Ford disagreed with but could not argue.
"I even took the girl out to save her from being ejected," said Ford, who maintained his cool through a lengthy delay. "I keep close tabs on those things but you can't argue it."
Even with the departure of Kate Mallery, now at Princeton, Ford thinks his team will remain competitive and the season will be an interesting one.
Sophomore Nina Albers led Gunn with three goals. Kenza Ashworth added two goals while Sawyer McKenna and Siham Arsalane also scored.
Castilleja, which competes in the Acalanes Invitational this weekend, took an 8-3 lead into the final period.
Janet Meng scored twice for the Gators. Gunn goalie Jayden Kratt made 19 saves.
Menlo dropped a tough 25-20, 26-28, 25-22, 25-21 nonleague decision at undefeated Mitty.
In the second set, the lead changed five times before the Menlo put it away.The Knights (7-3) drew to a 22-all tie after a senior Hanna Hoffman kill and a Logan Wilson block.
Mitty scored before senior middle Jazlin Chen tied it again at 24. Senior Simone Adam put away a tip, and sophomore Cleo Hardin delivered an off-speed hit, and the Knights took a 26-25 lead.
A hitting error tied the score at 26 before Mitty made a hitting error of its own, then senior Sharon Nejad delivered the winning kill.
Hardin and Nejad finished with 11 kills apiece while Adam and Hoffman each had 10. Hoffman also posted 25 assists, 10 digs and four aces. Adam had 10 digs, three blocks and a pair of aces.
Senior Hallie MacDonald recorded 19 digs and Zoe Gregory added 20 assists in four sets.
Menlo travels to the Dave Mohs Memorial Tournament in Huntington Beach this weekend.
Bridget Gray recorded a team-high nine kills and Menlo-Atherton opened its PAL Bay Division season with a 22-25, 25-10, 25-15, 25-19 home victory over Woodside on Thursday.
Madison Weeks and Christina Kerr combined for another 11 kills for the Bears (5-6, 1-0), who play at Carlmont on Tuesday (6:15 p.m.).
Rebecca Schulman served six aces to go with 14 assists and Clara Cronin had 32 digs and three aces.
Georgia Brook, Cienna Cattaneo and Ellery Singleton were among Woodside's top players.
Woodside (0-4, 0-1) welcomes Burlingame at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Gunn (6-4, 1-0) needed five sets to beat Homestead 25-21, 15-25, 25-18, 24-26, 15-12 in a SCVAL De Anza Division match.
Micaela Leong served six aces for the Titans (6-4, 1-0), who face Monta Vista at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday. Celine Safa led the team with nine kills, followed by Sophia Hahn with eight and Kaylin Hallada with seven.
Mountain View dropped a tough 24-26, 25-18, 25-16, 23-25, 15-5 decision to host Los Gatos in a SCVAL De Anza Division opener. The Spartans (4-1, 0-1) face Homestead in a league match Tuesday at 6:45 p.m.
In another match, Sacred Heart Prep swept The King's Academy in a nonleague meeting. SHP (10-1) is at home against Riordan for a 6:30 p.m. nonleague match Tuesday.
Los Altos beat Leigh 25-14, 25-10, 25-14 and Castilleja beat BASIS Silicon Valley 25-8, 25-22, 25-14 in nonleague matches.
The Eagles (6-4) open their league season at Palo Alto on Tuesday (6:45 p.m.). The Vikings (5-4, 1-0) beat Monta Vista 25-15, 25-19, 25-18 to open their league season.
Avery Janosky and Sara Waddell each scored in the first half as St. Francis beat Christopher 2-1 in a nonleague match.