The goals and expectations are lofty this season for the Palo Alto High girls' volleyball team. With experience, talent and confidence, the Vikings are thinking more than an SCVAL De Anza Division crown. As for crosstown rival Gunn, the immediate goals are much simpler.
When the rivals met on Tuesday night, one would think on the surface that Gunn would be the favorite with a sparkling 14-1 overall record. Yet, records can be deceiving and visiting Paly (3-0, 15-7) had little trouble in sweeping the Titans, 25-13, 25-20, 25-16, to remain perfect in league play.
In addition to its triumph over Gunn (0-2, 14-2), Paly has beaten Los Altos, upset longtime league power Los Gatos and appears to have the early inside track in the De Anza Division race. Yet, Paly coach Dave Winn and his players have more than a league crown on their agenda.
"Our expectation is to win state," said Winn, who has seven seniors on his roster. "Why not?"
Last season, Paly reached the CCS Division II semifinals before losing to eventual CCS champion Mitty. This season, the Vikings are playing impressive volleyball through three league matches and the seven losses have come against difficult competition and has prepared the Vikings well for the rugged De Anza Division.
Last weekend, Paly placed third in the Gold Division of the competitive Harbor tournament -- losing only to a Deer Valley team it defeated during pool play.
Gunn, with only two seniors, had great nonleague success and captured the Central California Classic a couple of weeks ago. Yet, the Titans have started 0-2 in league play and must keep battling in a league where there are no easy matches.
Paly was too strong and a tad quicker on Tuesday and Gunn also didn't help itself with a multitude of unforced errors. Gunn was without some size as 6-foot-1 junior middle blocker Taylor McAdam was unavailable due to an injury.
Paly won Game 1 by 25-13, taking advantage of numerous Gunn miscues while jumping out to a 10-6 lead. The Vikings cruised the remainder of the way as junior outside hitter Ally Whitson recorded five kills in the game.
Gunn made it close in Game 2 as Paly held a slim 18-17 advantage before scoring seven of the next 10 points to seize a commanding 2-0 lead in the match. Paly senior outside hitter Hillary Ford led the way with four kills in the game for Paly. Gunn junior outside hitter Lauren Ding produced five kills.
Game 3 was all Palo Alto as the Vikings leaped to a quick 7-0 advantage and never looked back. Ford and Whitson each had five kills in the game and made key plays after Gunn closed the gap to 14-11.
Whitson and Ford recorded 14 and 10 kills, respectively, in the match for Paly. Ding had 11 kills for Gunn.
Paly also received valuable efforts from senior defensive specialist Euna Oh, junior middle blocker Daniella Florant, sophomore outside hitter Marissa Florant and senior setter Jessie Juarez.
Senior setter Michaela Venuti, senior outside hitter Tiffany Stone and utility sophomore Chanel Miller made key contributions for Gunn.