Fall teams make short NCS runs

Football loses opener, while girls volleyball and men’s water polo reach second round


Lili Loney

Junior Tyler Stevens (9) gets ready to take a shot against Granada for the men’s water polo team.

Many of Cal High’s fall sports teams had successful seasons that wrapped up with NCS playoff appearances. Here’s how Grizzly teams fared in the postseason.
Heading into the playoffs the Grizzlies had a positive outlook and hoped to make another deep run.
“I think we can go all the way if we stay focused and dedicated,” sophomore left guard and defensive end Anish Chilukuri said. “I’m going to have a good week of practice and make sure I’m ready to play.”
But the NCS Division 1 opener didn’t turn out as the team hoped with the Grizzlies losing to Clayton Valley Charter 42-21 on the road last Friday.
After a slow start, the No. 6 Grizzlies (5-6, 1-4 EBAL) got going in the second half and scored two touchdowns to trail 21-14 at the half. But the third-seeded Ugly Eagles (7-4, 4-1) pulled away by outscoring Cal 14-0 in the fourth quarter.
“We went into Clayton and gave it our all,” junior kicker Jayden Shah said. “We made a few stops although they got us in the second half.”
Cal lost the earlier meeting between the two teams 49-14 on Oct. 21.
“We were expecting to be cocky because of how much they beat us by the first time,” Shah said.
Women’s Golf
The women’s golf team wrapped up the season by finishing 13th in the NCS Championships on Oct. 31.
Freshman Ishanvi Velagapudi led the team with a 9-over par round of 80 at Foxtail South Golf Course in Rohnert Park. Sophomore captain Emily Zhang shot an 85, followed by sophomore Cassidy Chiang with a 93.
“Overall, we did okay, but there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Chiang said. “I feel like I tried my best, but I could also do a lot better because there were a lot of little mistakes that happened.”
The team finished the season 6-12 in EBAL, the exact same record as last season despite losing its top three players. Cal’s varsity team consisted of all sophomores and one freshman.
One of the highlights was in the season opener when the Grizzlies defeated Amador Valley for the first time in school history. The team also came two strokes from upsetting Foothill on the road.
The girls had a good showing at the EBAL Championships on Oct. 17, shooting a 468 at Callippe. Velagapudi led the team with 82, followed by Zhang’s 85 and Chiang’s 86 to help the team finish eighth in league and qualify for NCS.
“We weren’t really expecting to make it into NCS,” Chiang said, “but everyone thought that they would do better in NCS than EBAL.”
The Grizzlies return their whole squad next season, and some of the players already have an idea what the team needs to do better to improve.
“The team needs to work on putting,” Velagapudi said. “For me, I first of all I need to work on hitting my driver straight and keeping a stable mindset.”
Women’s Volleyball
The last time that women’s volleyball team won an NCS game was back in the 2019 season.
But this year under the leadership of new coach David Huan, the Grizzlies won its first round game last month and reached the NCS quarterfinals.
Cal (16-12, 2-11 EBAL) beat Castro Valley 3-0 in the first round of NCS on Oct. 25. This victory wasn’t a surprise as No. 7 Cal beat the 10th seeded Trojans earlier in the season and was seeded higher.
Unfortunately, the Grizzlies run didn’t last long as they fell 3-0 to No. 2 San Ramon Valley on Oct. 29.
Men’s Water Polo
The men’s water polo team reached NCS and won their opener 11-9 over Washington on Nov. 3 at San Ramon Valley High.
“We went into the game knowing that as long as we played our game we could get them to play how we wanted as well,” junior Veerein Pala said.
After their success in their first game, No. 6 Cal (15-11, 4-4 EBAL) advanced to a quarterfinal matchup with third-seeded Las Lomas, which ended up winning 16-6.
Before NCS started, the team lost a few starters, forcing other players to step up and take on bigger roles. But a few a few other players became ill after the Washington game, Cal knew beating Las Lomas would be a tall task.
“We knew they would try and make us play how they wanted,” said Pala.
Cross County
Cal’s cross country team will once again be well represented at the NCS Championships on Saturday at Hayward High.
The Grizzlies are sending 14 runners to NCS, including seven boys and seven girls. Those advancing include seniors Gaby Jimenez, Anna Melvin, and Bryce Wijesekara; juniors Audrey Ackermann, Mahima Choudhary, Kayla Fong and Andrew Pruitt; sophomores Aiden Dube, Mark Gonzalez, Eshaan Hussain and Isabella Nubla, and freshman Kai Hamre.
“So the cross country has scoring based on the top five runners, and this year we actually have a good five for the boy’s varsity team,” junior Andrew Pruitt said. “There’s a very good chance that we could get second in our division, which is the cutoff from making it to state [as a team].”
The CIF State Finals will be on Nov. 26 in Woodward Park, Fresno.