The Sacred Heart Prep and Priory girls' volleyball teams are one victory away from reaching the CIF State Championships following important semifinal victories on Saturday in the Northern California playoffs.
The top-seeded Gators reached the Division IV title match after eliminating No. 4 Bear River (31-13) on Saturday night in Atherton, 25-12, 23-25, 25-9, 25-15.
Sacred Heart Prep (32-5) will host No. 3 Harbor (34-6) on Tuesday (7 p.m.) with the winner advancing to the state finals on Saturday at Concordia University in Irvine.
Harbor advanced with a 25-23, 26-24, 25-21 win over No. 2 seed St. Patrick/St. Vincent of Vallejo. The SHP-Harbor showdown will be a rematch of the Central Coast Section Division IV title match the previous weekend, where the Gators prevailed in four games.
Senior-laden SHP moved into the finals behind 22 kills from Sonia Abuel-Saud plus 13 kills and three blocks from fellow senior Ellie Shannon. Sophomore Victoria Garrick added 11 kills plus 14 digs, senior Payton Smith contributed seven kills and four blocks, senior Helen Gannon provided 16 digs and senior Cammie Merten had 55 assists.
While SHP plays for only its second state berth in program history, Priory will go after a trip to the state finals in Division V when the No. 2 Panthers (23-8) visit No. 1 Branson (37-2) on Tuesday at College of Marin at 7 p.m.
Priory advanced to the finals with a 25-18, 28-26, 26-24 victory over No. 3 seed St. Joseph-Notre Dame of Alameda on Saturday night in Portola Valley.
Junior Marine Hall-Poirier led Priory with 17 kills and 13 digs while senior Clara Johnson added nine kills, nine digs and seven aces. She finished the match by getting the final two kills. Libero Michaela Koval added 14 digs for the Panthers.
Menlo-Atherton, meanwhile, saw its season end following a 25-17, 24-26, 25-23, 25-17 loss to host and No. 1 seed St. Francis (Sacramento) on Saturday in the Division I semifinals. The No. 4-seeded Bears finished 28-8.
Seniors Ali Spindt and Katelyn Doherty led the Bears with triple-doubles. Spindt had 22 assists, 22 digs and 15 kills while Doherty added 11 kills, 21 assists and 22 digs. Junior Pauli King finished with 12 digs and 10 kills, junior Virginia Lane added 25 digs and sophomore Ally Ostrow contributed 11 digs.
Spindt had 50 hitting attempts, King had 44 and Doherty 31 for 135 attempts among them. St. Francis came up with 112 digs.
"Saturday was an interesting match," said M-A coach Ron Whitmill. "We had a lead in Game 3 and, if we were able to close that game out, there may have been a different outcome. But, they are a No. 1 seed for a reason. They are a team that had a lot of very experienced seniors and we were playing in an extremely hostile environment. I think the crowd, and the moment at times, proved a little much for some of my sophomores. They seemed very intimidated at times. I think it was the first time some of them were in that situation.
"But, we played well and the games were very close. Ali never really got completely in a groove and neither did Pauli. They both played well, but we needed them both to have really big games. I don't think we were able to get Pauli enough good opportunities. But, I am very proud of the way my team played. We had a legitimate chance to go up 2-1 and put all the pressure on St Francis. We just didn't capitalize on our opportunities to close that game out. But we gave ourselves a chance to win.
"So, although its disappointing to lose, as an athlete, all you can ask for is a chance. And if you had told us on Friday that we were going to be up 21-19 in Game 3 with the match tied 1-1 at St Francis, we would have told you that we liked our chances. What that tells me is that we succeeded in our preparation, and we were successful when we executed our game plan. So we were in control of our own destiny against a bigger, stronger, more experienced team. My team should be very proud of that."
Menlo-Atherton had reached the NorCal finals last season after beating the Troubadors in the semifinals. The match was the final one for M-A seniors Spindt, Doherty, Saane Fakalata and Mele Moimoi. Over their final three seasons, the seniors help compile a 40-2 mark in the PAL Bay Division and an overall record of 81-24.