Senior Gillian Bressie began playing water polo in the fourth grade and gradually migrated toward the goalie position, making it permanent by the seventh grade.
By the time she reached Menlo School, Bressie had still not received any formal training. That all changed when Knights' boys' water polo coach Jack Bowen began giving her lessons.
In an area filled with Division I goalie prospects, Bressie has quietly carved herself a spot in the equation.
"I was never really competitive until high school," Bressie said.
Bressie made eight saves and recorded five steals Monday night and Menlo edged Palo Alto, 9-8, in a nonleague girls contest.
Sophomore Annie Bisconti scored four goals and two assists to lead the Knights, who played their season opener. The Vikings (1-1) beat Menlo-Atherton last week.
Sophie Frick scored four goals to lead Palo Alto. Sabrina Hall added three and Holly Chiao also scored.
Bressie and Bisconti were two reasons Menlo School qualified for its first Central Coast Section playoffs in six years last fall and they're also reasons the Knights are thinking bigger this time around.
"We only lost one senior and we're taking the momentum from the end of last season making a push into the postseason," Bressie said. "We've been playing together for a while now."
Second-year coach Alana Burgess took over a team that never thought it would play a CCS game and quickly helped guide it into a competitive group.
"It was a great way to start the season," she said. "We really weren't game ready but we were able to accomplish what we did because of the team chemistry. All this game did was give us some experience."
Last year, though, helped set a new standard for this year. Menlo last won a league title in 2014 and last won a CCS title in 2006.
"Now we know we can get to the postseason, the next step is to try and get to the next level," Burgess said.
Bressie's development has been key. Bowen, quite literally, has written the book on goalkeeping and runs a goalkeeping clinic. He was a two-time All-American at Stanford.
"We've worked on a lot of things," Bressie said, rattling off some of the fundamental principals that has been drilled into her.
Bisconti, whose older brother Nick captained the U.S. junior national team this summer and who plays at Cal, seemingly brings a natural talent for the game into the pool.
"I've never seen her go less than 100 perfect, not even at practice," Burgess said. "This is where she thrives."
Bisconti gave the Knights the lead for good when she converted a penalty shot at the end of the third quarter. She also added a goal early in the fourth quarter.
Sophie Golub had a pair of goals and two steals. Parker Callender, Meg Reinstra, Meri Klingelhofer also scored for the Knights.
Palo Alto also returns most of its starters, though Vikings first-year Doug Stotland needs to find a goalie.
"That's the unknown," Stotland said. "Our goalies have zero varsity experience. They had a great first first game, so we'll see."
Talia Stanley, Hall, Chiao and Frick form a core group of seniors who have been together for awhile and are intent on a return visit to the CCS.
"I'm impressed with how hard the y work," Stotland said.
The Vikings travel to Carlmont for a nonleague match at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Menlo hosts Aragon next Wednesday in the PAL Bay Division opener at 6 p.m.
Castilleja hit the fairways at Menlo CC for its season and West Bay Athletic League opener Monday, beating Mercy-Burlingame, 219-269, with junior Niav Layton and freshman Kelly Yu sharing medalist honors, each hitting seven of nine greens in regulation and finishing 1-over 36.
Senior co-captains Anika Tse (44) and Sophia Khu (45) also contributed, with freshman Lishan Carroll completing the scoring with a 56.
Castilleja's next scheduled meet is with The King's Academy a week from Thursday at Palo Alto Hills at 3 p.m. TKA lost to Notre Dame-Belmont, 248-294, Thursday.
Menlo and Sacred Heart Prep are slated to open their season against each other on Thursday at 3:45 p.m. at Sharon Heights Golf and CC.