By Andrew Preimesberger
Palo Alto Online Sports
Seniors Ellie Shannon and Sonia Abuel-Saud combined for 29 kills to lead host Sacred Heart Prep to a 3-2 West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) girls' volleyball win over neighborhood rival Menlo School on Thursday night in a battle between unbeaten teams.
Shannon had 15 kills plus four blocks while Abuel-Saud finished with 14 kills and 21 digs as the Gators prevailed, 25-17, 22-25, 25-20, 19-25, 15-11, while winning their seventh straight to remain alone in first place at 5-0 (20-2 overall). Menlo fell to 4-1 (15-6 overall) and into second place in the division at the halfway point of the league season.
"This game meant a lot to us," said Shannon. "This is always the biggest game of the year for us and to end it like we did tonight was huge."
The first game was controlled by the Gators on kills led by sophomore Victoria Garrick and Abuel-Saud. The duel combined for eight and rallied Sacred Heart to the win in Game 1. Garrick finished with 13 kills and 23 digs.
Menlo made a comeback in Game 2 when junior outside hitter Maddie Huber had six kills and led a 7-2 run giving the Knights the 25-22 edge and tying the match. Huber had a strong game as she finished with 29 kills and 15 digs.
"She played very aggressive and smart," Menlo coach Atlee Hubbard said.
Menlo sophomore setter Elisa Merten contributed 58 assists, three aces, 18 digs, and five blocks.
After the Gators won Game 3, Menlo was down 13-10 and stepped up for a 15-5 rally giving the Knights a Game 4 win and forcing a fifth. The Knights' charge was led by junior Sarah Bruml, who had four kills in the game and had 10 total.
SHP senior Payton Smith was clutch in Game 5 as she five points -- two off serves. Garrick had back-to-back aces that were just inside the line putting Sacred Heart up 14-10. Senior setter Cammie Merten set up Smith for the spike that hit off Bruml and sealed the win for the Gators.
The Gators' defense in Game 5 was huge as they held Huber scoreless. Smith finished with 11 kills and four blocks, Merten contributed 38 assists and Helen Gannon added 31 digs as the Gators had another all-around effort to overcome Huber's big offensive night.
"The rest of our offense struggled a little and our serve-receive was shaky most of the match," Hubbard said. "Sacred Heart beat us in serve-receive tonight. Still, it was a close match and for us to keep fighting with the loud student section . . . I am proud of our effort tonight."
The teams will meet again on Nov. 1 at Menlo.
In another big match, host Palo Alto bounced back from its first SCVAL De Anza Division loss after 21 straight wins with a very big 27-25, 25-12, 25-22 triumph over Homestead. The win moved Paly (7-1, 18-4) out of a tie for first place with the Mustangs and Los Gatos and into sole possession of the top spot following Los Gatos' 3-0 upset loss to host Los Altos on Thursday.
Homestead and Los Gatos are both 6-2.
Senior co-captain Sophia Bono dished out 27 assists with Shelby Knowles putting away 13 kills and Becca Raffel registering nine kills. Knowles and Raffel also combined for 21 digs while Keri Gee provided 17 digs to lead the Vikings.
Also in the De Anza Division, Gunn posted a 25-23, 25-17, 25-22 victory over host Lynbrook. Lena Latour led the Titans (3-5, 11-10) with 13 kills.
Elsewhere in the WBAL:
Castilleja finally got its first division victory as the Gators rolled to a 25-19, 25-21, 25-23 win over visiting Notre Dame-San Jose (0-5, 9-11). Senior Lucy Tashman led the Gators (1-4, 12-12) with 15 kills, 16 digs and four aces. Katya Scocimara added eight kills and three aces, Jen DiSanto finished with 19 digs and Hannah Hsieh contributed 30 assists to the victory.
In San Francisco, Priory suffered a tough road loss to Mercy-San Francisco, 23-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-17, 15-9. The Panthers fell to 2-3 (15-6).
"Although the girls played hard, they didn't have a good night offensively," said Priory coach Dustin Moore. "Contributing to that was the solid defensive play of Mercy."
In the PAL Bay Division, junior Pauli King had 11 kills and 13 digs to help spark Menlo-Atherton to a 25-18, 25-13, 25-13 victory over visiting San Mateo. The Bears improved their first-place standing at 8-0 (14-5 overall). Kaitlin Tavarez added 37 assists while Katelyn Doherty finished with 24 assists, 11 kills and eight digs and Virginia Lane had 15 digs.