Menlo School saw its record-breaking girls' volleyball season come to and end in a 21-25, 30-28, 25-15, 25-16 loss to San Diego champion Francis Parker (29-5) in the CIF Division IV state championship match on Saturday at Santiago Canyon College in Orange County.
The NorCal champion Knights (32-6) finished the season with the most single-season wins in school history while reaching the state finals for a fifth time -- but dropping to 0-5 in those title matches. Francis Parker finished with its second straight Division IV state title -- the Lancers beat Sacred Heart Prep last year -- and the eighth overall in school history.
Menlo looked in good shape early on as it used a 7-2 run to take a 16-12 lead in the first set. The Lancers got to within 23-21 before kills by seniors Maddy Frappier and Maddie Huber put Menlo into the lead.
The Knights took a 5-1 lead in the second set behind three kills by senior Morgan Dressel and eventually held a 24-18 lead on an ace by Huber. Menlo, however, could not close out the match as Francis Parker went on a 6-0 run to tie the match at 24.
After five more ties, the Lancers pulled out a 30-28 win and grabbed momentum for the remainder of the match.
"We were up 24-18 in Game 2," acknowledged Menlo coach Steve Cavella, "and then things just fell apart . . . We faced a really talented team in the state finals. You have to give Francis Parker a lot of credit for not giving up."
Menlo was never the same after the second set, falling behind by 20-7 in the third set and 10-1 in the fourth before rallying in both to avoid a rout. Menlo was led by junior Lida Vandermeer's 15 kills, 11 from Dressel and 10 by sophomore Maddie Stewart. Junior Elisa Merten finished with 37 assists, Frappier had 19 digs and senior Melissa Cairo was Menlo's recipient of the Sportsmanship Award.
"Morgan and Maddie did a great job in the middle and Cairo played great defense," Cavella said.
Despite several injuries to players who missed significant time during the season, the Knights demonstrated resolve from its senior captains Cairo, Dressel and Huber and heightened play from the younger players.
"The best surprise was the play of our underclassmen," Cavella said. "I thought Maddie Stewart, Jessica Houghton, Olivia Pellarin and others really did a great job this year."
Vandermeer and Merten were starters at the beginning of the season and played well the whole year.
Seven seniors -- Cairo, Dressel, Huber, Sarah Bruml, Sloan Cinelli, Frappier and Kate Gilhuly -- boosted the Knights to their historic run.
Huber, bound for Princeton, finished the year with more than 300 kills. Cairo had 523 digs on the year and Merten finished with 1,087 assists.
Among the many standouts for Francis Parker was senior libero Sarah Benjamin, who is headed for Stanford next fall.
Gunn (2-1) finished third in the Aptos High School/Santa Cruz Warriors 1st Annual Nor-Cal 2013 Invitational with a 58-56 win over Palma on Sturday. Gunn's Chris Russell was selected to the all-tournament team.
The Menlo-Atherton at Sacred Heart Cathedral game was not reported.
With junior Gabi Bade pouring in 22 points, Pinewood captured the annual Sandi Stober Classic tourney with a 60-48 win over host Lynbrook on Saturday night. Bade made five of her nine 3-point attemptsThe Panthers (3-0) also got 15 points and six rebounds from senior Leanna Bade while junior Marissa Hing contributed eight points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals to the winning effort.
In Atherton, Caroline Cummings tossed in 15 points and fellow senior Jane Meehan added 13 to pace Sacred Heart Prep to a 49-20 nonleague win over visiting Pacific Grove. The Gators improved to 3-0 by grabbing a 22-11 halftime lead and cruising in the second half.
Menlo kicked off its season with a 1-1 deadlock with Yerba Buena in the opening round of the Oak Grove Gold Cup on Saturday at Oak Grove High.
The Aztec Warriors pressured Menlo early, earning a few corners and eventually took the lead after a failed Menlo clearance at the back post allowed a Yerba Buena player to put one high over junior goalie Alexander Moore in the side net.
Menlo equalized midway through the first half when junior Peter Rosston found sophomore Tyler McGraw at the top of the box, with McGraw toe-poking the ball past the keeper for the tie. Senior captain John Strong and sophomore Keaton Shiveley helped the Knights keep the pressure on the Aztec defense, but Menlo was unable to find the winner.
Also in the Oak Grove tourney, Sacred Heart Prep (1-2) dropped a 2-0 decision to host Mountain View.
Getting two goals from senior co-captain Austin Mirabella, the Priory boys handed Lynbrook a 3-1 loss in the Homestead Christmas Cup. Sophomore Sergio Lopez added a solo goal with Mirabella and junior co-captain Bailey Marshek adding assists for the Panthers.
Palo Alto got its first win of the season following a pair of losses as the Vikings posted a 2-0 nonleague triumph over visiting San Benito on Saturday.
The Vikings held the visitors to just two shots in the first half while scoring twice in the first 23 minutes. Katherine Shan took a pass from Katie Foug and raced past three defenders to get a one-on-one with the keeper, making a great touch-goal just outside the goalie's reach. Two minutes later, Aoi Sugihara curved in a free kick from about 35 yards out to make it 2-0.
Paly keeper Dhara Yu made a big save with a deflection in the second half and followed that with another crucial save. San Benito had two free kicks later in the second half, but Yu caught both. The Paly defense wound up allowing just four goals by San Benito.
At Burlingame High, Sacred Heart Prep got goals three minutes apart in the second half from freshmen Olivia Athens and Cameron Gordon in a 2-0 win over Hillsdale in the opening round of the Burlingame Girls Soccer Tournament. Athens scored in the 71st minute off an assist from Gordon, before Gordon scored in the 74th minute with an assist from Athens as the Gators improved to 2-0.
In the same tourney, Menlo-Atherton battled Aragon to a 1-1 deadlock. The Bears (1-0-2) controlled the first half and netted their only goal when freshman Katie Guenin fed a ball to junior Amanda Wiseman, who took the initial shot that was blocked before controlling the rebound and finishing. M-A out-shot Aragon in the first half, 7-1.
In the second half, Aragon got the equalizer in the final 10 minutes when a deflected save by junior keeper Jacqueline Foody was controlled by the Dons and then finished off.
The Gunn-Monta Vista match was not reported.
Gunn sent 15 freshmen and sophomores to Harbor High in Santa Cruz on Saturday and officially opened its season by getting four champions and eight medalists.
Finishing 3-0 and winning titles were David Abramovitch at 125, Tanner Kerrins at 138, Simon Cromarty at 145 and Andy Maltz at 285. Second-place finishes went to Viraj Ghosh at 125, Ray Wu at 132 and Alex Legenhausen at 182.
Palo Alto, meanwhile, finished 10th out of 26 teams at the 47th annual Peninsula Invitational at Half Moon Bay. Sophomore Eric Oshima (2-1) was second at 160, junior Kevin Schumacher(3-1) was third at 170 with three pins, junior James Giaccia (3-1) was fifth at 126 and sophomore Conner Donnelly (2-1) was fifth at 182.
In the girls' portion of the meet a day earlier, Palo Alto finished 10th out of 27 teams. Alexa Austin was second at 131 and Sara Aguilar took fourth at 189 to lead the Vikings.