Junior Nooryan Jafri usually anchors Sacred Heart Prep's strong group of doubles players. With senior Sara Choy, a blue chip prospect ranked No. 3 in NorCal U18 singles, out of the lineup, she moves into the fourth singles spot.
Jafri found herself the center of attention Wednesday when she and Gunn senior Catherine Novick were embroiled in a marathon two-set match, both going to tie-breakers. They were the last players standing and the match was all square.
"I definitely knew Gunn would be a tough match," Jafri said after recording a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4) victory that gave Sacred Heart Prep a season-opening 4-3 nonleague win over a talented Titans team. "I think we're a well-rounded team and it showed this match."
The Gators, who are scheduled to play at Mountain View at 3:45 p.m. Thursday, needed everything to click to pull out the win. It was only fair a predominantly doubles player got to decide the match in singles.
Gunn's top three singles players, all ranked among the top 54 in Northern California, Julie Pham, Anna Yu and Olivia Aspegren all won in straight sets.
Sacred Heart Prep swept the doubles matches, with Emily McGrath and Natalie Rotenberg winning at No. 1 doubles, Lindsey Marcus and Sarah McGrath winning at No. 2 and Sarah Quinlan and Emma Tung victorious at No. 3.
Pham, 14th in the U18 rankings, was pushed by Sacred Heart Prep's Melina Stavropoulos, ranked 48th, but took a 6-4, 6-3 victory that knotted things for Jafri and Novick.
Aspegren, ranked 54th in U16, had a little easier time of it at No. 3 singles, winning 6-1, 6-3, give Gunn its first point.
Titans' No. 2 player Emma Yu, ranked 38th in U18 and 23rd in U16, beat Isa Robinson 6-1, 6-0, although it was a more competitive match then the score indicated.
Jafri and Novick were in the middle of the second set when all eyes were turned their way. Neither player participates much in junior tennis but both could feel the urgency of the match.
There was an extended delay as some scoring issues were being worked out. Jafri stood on the baseline, bouncing a ball with her racket as coaches from both sides working through it.
"I hated it. It started getting to me after awhile," Jafri said of the delay. "There was a lot of thinking and anxiety hit me."
Jafri led 4-3 out of the waiting period and Novick worked the score to 6-6, forcing the tie-breaker of which she took a 4-2 edge.
"I finally had to let everything go," Jafri said. "I had to stop letting it get to me. And I didn't want to go into a third set tie-breaker."
Jafri took the next five points to earn the win. She was mobbed by her teammates as a reward.
"This was a great match," Gunn coach Jim Gorman said. "It all came down to the fourth singles. We had to use three JV kids for the match but we do have a good team. There are a couple of other ranked players in school who don't play (including one on another fall sports team)."
Gunn plays at Palo Alto at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Castilleja dropped a heart-breaking nonleague match to host San Mateo, 4-3, Wednesday as three matches went to a third-set tie-breaker, two of which went San Mateo's way.
Tobey Solomon and Lexi Bundy gave the Gators a win at No. 2 doubles, 6-2, 6-1 and Soline Bouddard and Eliza Golder won their tirbreaker 7-6 (0), 5-7, 10-6 at No. 3 doubles.
The top doubles team of Mabelle Pasmooij and Roxana Scott earned a 7-6 (1) victory in the first set but fell in the second set. In extended play, San Mateo took the tie-breaker, 13-11.
Sophia Nesamoney gave Castilleja a singles victory and No. 2 singles Kaitlin Rhee took San Mateo's Sarah Fung to the limit before dropping the tiebreaker.
The Gators play at Leland at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Reigning Central Coast Section medalist Stephanie Yu shot a round with no bogeys nor any birdies, scoring par on every hole to finish with an even par 36 and lead host Palo Alto to a 196-219 victory over Los Gatos at the Palo Alto Hills Country Club on Wednesday.
Freshman Marina Mata added a 1-over 37 for the Vikings (2-0, 1-0) in their Santa Clara Valley Athletic League opener. The Wildcats (0-2, 0-2) dropped a 218-219 decision to Lynbrook on Tuesday.
Gunn was scheduled to meet Lynbrook this week.
Palo Alto and Sacred Heart Prep are both slated to golf in the Helen Lengfeld Memorial Tournament at the Peninsula Golf and Country Club in San Mateo next Wednesday at 2 pm.
Menlo and the Gators are scheduled to meet in a West Bay Athletic League match Thursday at Sharon Heights CC.
The Vikings also got a nice round from Priya Bakshi, who shot a 39. She was followed by Katherine Sung with a 41, Madison Pineda at 43 and Jasmine Choi at 45.
Menlo opened its season with a convincing 203-285 WBAL victory over Notre Dame-San Jose at Sunnyvale Municipal Golf Course.
Senior Sophie Siminoff, the medalist with an even-par 35, and sophomore Gianna Inguagiato hit a 36 to pace the Knights.
Siminoff, whose round included a birdie, "hit the ball really well, and I know she is looking forward to tomorrow's match against Sacred Heart Prep at Sharon Heights," Menlo coach Jim Miller said.
Inguagiato carded just one bogey on the difficult eighth hole.
"Gianna played well and stayed focused despite not hitting her driver up to her high standards, Miller said. " I know Gianna is also looking forward to the Sharon Heights greens and challenging layout."
Sophomore Vikki Xu finished with a 37. She parred the difficult No.8 which is surrounded by water hazards and protected by a narrow sloping green.
Sophomore Sulwen Ma fought through a tough start and finished with four pars and a 41.
"Sulwen chipped and pitched well," Miller said. "We had Marena and Vivian Herr part of our exciting freshmen class playing five and six. Neither player had seen Sunnyvale GC before and they both played well and gained valuable knowledge from their rounds."
Girls water polo
Senior Hollie Chiao made all four of her shots Wednesday and Palo Alto defeated host Carlmont, 11-3, in a nonleague game.
Sabrina Hall and Sophie Frick were also big contributors for the Vikings, who led 6-1 at halftime.
Palo Alto (2-1) hosts Mountain View in its Santa Clara Valley Athletic League opener on Tuesday at 6:45 p.m. in the first game of the newly-remodeled Peery Center.
Boys water polo
Palo Alto dropped its season opener to host Serra, 19-8, in a nonleague match Wednesday.
The Vikings host Monta Vista in its SCVAL opener Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.