The Palo Alto girls' volleyball squad became the first team in school history to win back-to-back state titles by outlasting Marymount, 25-17, 25-23, 22-25, 20-25, 17-15 in the CIF Division I finals on Saturday at Concordia University in Irvine. The Vikings let a 2-0 lead get away and trailed in the fifth set, 13-7, before rallying to win the state crown.
Palo Alto senior Melanie Wade had 27 kills and was named the Most Valuable Player of the championship match. She got her final kill to put the Vikings on top 16-15 in the final set, with the match decided when Marymount (Los Angeles) freshman Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani hit wide to end the match.
The Vikings (36-3) looked in control after winning the first two sets convincingly, but quickly looked in trouble when Marymount (33-5) rallied to deadlock the match and send it to a deciding fifth set.
The Sailors, who won the SoCal title up by upending top-seeded Los Alamitos, appeared on their way to victory by grabbing a 13-7 lead in the final set. Marymount, however, made two mistakes with a net viola ion and hitting long and it was 13-9.
Paly senior Caroline Martin, who had a standout effort and was named to the All-Championship Team, scored off a block and then produced a stuff block and it was 13-11. Maddie Kuppe, who served back-to-back aces to win last year's state title, came up with a huge ace and Wade followed with a kill for a 13-13 match. Kuppe also was named to the All-Championship Team.
Wade got kill No. 25 for a 14-13 lead before Marymount tied it at 14. A service error gave Paly a 15-14 lead but a block tied the match at 15. That's when Wade got kill No. 26 and the Sailors sailed a kill attempt long and Palo Alto began a well-deserved celebration.
"All we needed was to put two kills away," Marymount coach Cari Klein said. "But we got tentative and missed some shots we normally make. This was probably the worst match we've played this season."
Palo Alto finished a magical two-year run under Winn with a 21-game win streak and a 77-4 record, two state titles, two NorCal crowns and two CCS championships. No team in the 100-plus years of Palo Alto athletics ever produced such a remarkable two-year effort.
Despite going 41-1 last year and losing two senior starters, Winn believed this year's squad was even better. He had eight seniors and plenty of veteran experience, which surfaced in a big way Saturday when it counted most.
In addition to Wade, Kuppe produced 16 kills while fellow seniors Martin and Jackie Koenig contributed in key moments. Senior setter Kimmy Whitson had some problems with double contacts throughout the two sets the Vikings lost but was solid when it counted while producing 45 assists. Junior libero Shelby Knowles also came up big in spots as the Vikings closed out the most successful two-year performance in school history.
The state title was the fifth in Paly school history. The boys' basketball program won crowns in 1993 and 2006 and the football team won its state title in 2010.
Winn, meanwhile, won his 200th match at Paly with the state title secured. He is 200-36 in six seasons with the Vikings. Last month, Winn won the 300th match of his coaching career.
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