Gunn girls earn a share of the SCVAL water polo title | News | Palo Alto Online |


Gunn girls earn a share of the SCVAL water polo title


Gunn sophomore Cooper McKenna had a late start to her girls water polo season because of an injury. These days she's playing like she doesn't want the year to end very soon.

McKenna scored five goals to help the Titans down visiting Los Gatos, 9-5, Monday on Senior Day to capture a share of the SCVAL De Anza Division title.

"I was so excited to play my first game back I was throwing the ball over the net I had so much energy," McKenna said. "After playing a lot of games this weekend I felt more comfortable with my shot."

McKenna played with the confidence of a veteran and continuously rifled shots through the slightest of openings to lift Gunn to the co-title.

The Gunn boys also won their game against the Wildcats, 8-3, and will head into the SCVAL playoffs with a lot of momentum. The second-seeded Titans (13-11, 9-3) take on Harker in the first round of the playoffs at Lynbrook on Tuesday at 5:50 p.m.

Where the Gunn girls would be seeded was anybody's guess immediately following Monday's win, and it will be a crucial tie-breaker as the top seed earns a first-round on Thursday. Los Gatos (17-3, 11-1) and the Titans (15-10, 11-1) split the season series, each winning by four goals at home.

"I was a little worried because last week was homecoming and Saturday was the dance," Gunn coach Mark Hernandez said.

The Titans also won their final two games of the NorCal Invitational on Tuesday to finish 13th. They were seeded 15th.

"Any time you can win two games in the same day of the NorCal, you know you've played well," Hernandez said.

It had a carryover effect too.

"We really did play well," McKenna said. "We've been so competitive with (Los Gatos), even last year, and we knew coming in it would be hard. I'm happy we did this on Senior Day. That gave us the extra fire we needed."

The Wildcats took a 5-4 lead with 3:48 remaining in the third quarter. It was all Gunn afterward, starting with senior goalie Zoe Banks, who recorded several mind-boggling saves down the stretch, including stopping a pair of power-play opportunities.

Elizabeth Miksztal, who scored the game's first goal, also made a crucial field block that kept momentum on the side of the Titans. Several others, including Kara Jacobsen and Kayla Lin, were instrumental on defense.

"We just all felt like this was our Senior Night and we were playing so well, we couldn't let them beat us," McKenna said.

McKenna scored the final two goals of the third period to give Gunn the lead. Kate Mallery, who scored three goals, converted a penalty shot to open the fourth period and McKenna and Mallery each added another goal to put the game away.

Playoffs begin Thursday and will be hosted by Gunn. The Titans likely secured a spot for themselves in the first CCS Open Division for water polo.

"Right now we're just looking at the league tournament," McKenna said. "I like playing here the best."

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