As the season progresses for the Sacred Heart Prep girls volleyball team, it's going to realize the importance of Tuesday's 21-25, 25-13, 25-19, 25-20 nonleague loss to visiting Carlmont.
The Gators (6-2), after all, play in the competitive West Bay Athletic League, which sent three teams into the Northern California playoffs last season, including state Division IV champion's Menlo.
"These are games you want to play," Sacred Heart Prep coach Allison Magner said. "Carlmont came to win. That's a very good team. We gave a tremendous effort and played to win."
Both of Sacred Heart Prep's losses have come to Carlmont and both times the Gators took a set against the Scots, who finished third in the Milpitas Spikefest last weekend and handing state Open Division champion Mitty a loss along the way.
Everything that went right in a 25-21 first-set victory went wrong in a 25-13 second-set loss.
"We got a little ahead of ourselves after that first set," Magner said. It's part of the journey. I think we're off to an incredible start and this year's seniors have done an impeccable job of leading this team. It feels special. The culture is there and these girls are ready to work."
Outside hitter Cate Desler, setter Haley Martella and libero Caroline Caruso are the most prominent of the seven seniors, though all of them play an important role. Magner utilizes her full roster and has faith in seniors Ally Polverari, Celia Charlton, Sode Smith and Alexa Bartlett as well.
"They've helped develop an uncanny chemistry, said the coach. "They're great players and hard workers."
The Gators are at Hillsdale for a 6:30 p.m. match Wednesday and host San Mateo at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
The biggest difference between the first two sets was in unforced errors. Sacred Heart Prep didn't have many in the first set but was sloppy in the second set.
The final two sets were competitive, with the Gators rallying from from an eight-point deficit to draw within 22-19 in the third set and then scoring six straight points in the third set to make it a one-point deficit.
"I think we learned a lot," Magner said. "Mainly our overall discipline. It's back to the drawing board, specifically to look at defensive schemes."
Desler recorded 18 kills, a pair of blocks, one solo, and an ace. Polverari and Elena Radeff combined for 10 kills. Polverari added a pair of aces and did not make an error in 11 serves.
Martella kept the offense moving with 26 assists. She also added two aces. Caruso had 14 digs and was 12-for-13 in severing.
Junior setter Katie Quinlan saw action in all four sets, delivering nine assists, recording five digs and serving at a 91 percent clip (10-of-11).
Elsewhere, Amelia Gibbs recorded six blocks and a pair of aces to help Palo Alto down host Sequoia, 25-21, 25-17, 25-17, in a nonleague match.
Chelsea Fan had 11 kills, Susanna Limb recorded 21 digs and Britney Fan had 18 assists.
The Vikings (1-1) host Gunn (2-6) in the first official athletic contest at the Peery Family Center on campus. First serve is at 7 p.m.
At Gunn, the Knights (4-2) served up 25 aces on the night, with Caroline Bradley leading the way with seven. Kristin Sellers contributed five to go with 19 assists.
Bradley and Sianna Houghton combined for nine of Menlo's 19 digs. Grace King added 13 kills.
The Knights host Menlo-Atherton at 6:15 p.m. Thursday night in a battle of two state finalists.
Woodside downed host Santa Clara, 25-20, 25-21, 23-25, 25-17, as Jennifer Buja had 12 kills and Elena Campbell added nine.
Leila Odenwald had 20 digs, followed by Campbell with 15 and Madeline Mendes with 13.
On Monday night, Woodside (4-4) topped visiting Sequoia 26-24. 25-23, 25-17 as Sarah Strus recorded eight kills and Molly Buddie had 16 digs.
Menlo lost a 4-3 thriller to host Saratoga, a perennial powerhouse in the Central Coast Section, in a nonleague match Tuesday.
The Knights, a CCS quarterfinalist, just missed meeting Saratoga in last year's section semifinals.
Menlo hosts Monte Vista in its home opener 4:00 pm Thursday.
For the Knights, Addie Ahlstrom cruised to a 6-0, 6-2 win over Stephanie Ren at No. 2 singles. Senior Kathryn Wilson and sophomore Penelope Penfold Patterson beat Elizabeth Lee and Kate Lam 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 doubles.
Menlo seniors Lauren Creamer and Elika Eshghi earned a 6-4, 6-0 win over Alyssa Pinai and Khiara Berkowitz 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles.
Menlo's top singles Taylor Gould dropped a 6-1, 3-6, 10-7 decision to Monica Stratakos.
Also, Palo Alto opened its season with a 7-0 victory at Aragon.