Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 24, 2010

Palo Alto keeps on winning

Unbeaten Vikings follow Harbor title with league-opening win

by Keith Peters

The SCVAL De Anza Division volleyball season is under way and defending champion Palo Alto appears well-prepared to claim a fifth straight championship — shared or outright —after an impressive opener this week.

The Vikings, coming off a tournament title at the Harbor Invitational on Saturday, kept their momentum and win streak intact with a 25-10, 25-13, 25-7 triumph at Los Altos on Tuesday.

Palo Alto is 19-0 this season, the best start in school history. The Vikings went after No. 20 in a row against visiting Monta Vista on Thursday night. Paly won 33 straight matches last season to establish a school record.

"Our SCVAL leaguemates are hungry to have someone else be league champ," Paly coach Dave Winn said earlier this season. "Our focus really has been as it always has been at the start of every season — serve and serve receive. We know we have great hitters, but we need aggressive serving and consistent passing to make it work. We stay focused on doing the simple things really, really well."

Palo Alto did just that against Los Altos as the Vikings made only four hitting errors the entire match showcasing "some excellent balance between aggressive swings and smart shots," said Winn. Junior Maddie Kuppe led the offense with 11 kills with junior Melanie Wade adding 10 and junior Caroline Martin contributing eight.

On Saturday, the Vikings went 6-0 and successfully defended their title at the annual Harbor Invitational in Santa Cruz.

Playing some of their best volleyball of the season, the Vikings dominated both North Salinas in the semifinals (26-16, 25-15) and previously unbeaten Aptos in the Gold Division finals (25-18, 25-16).

Paly senior Trina Ohms was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player while Kuppe and fellow junior Kimmy Whitson were named to the all-tournament team.

"The girls played at a very high level the whole day," said Winn, who is 142-32 in his fifth season with the Vikings. "Our defense was definitely better than we displayed at Reno (when Paly won the High Sierra Classic).

"Several opposing coaches commented that they just could not stop our offense since we had such a balanced attack, but what I'm most proud of was our defense. The girls were very focused on being disciplined in each of their defensive assignments and really celebrated the great defensive plays just as much as our big kills. It was a truly great day of high quality volleyball for our squad."

Ohms had 42 kills, 23 digs and two aces while seemingly making big plays at the biggest times. Wade had a team-high 54 kills (.588 hitting) with five aces and eight blocks. Winn said the 6-oot-5 Wade was impossible to stop at times.

Kuppe added 38 kills (.373 hitting) with 42 digs, her best defensive day of the season. Martin contributed 12 kills and four blocks while Whitson had 22 digs, nine kills and a whopping 132 assists. Megan Coleman, the team's other senior, added 48 digs and nine aces while Shelby Knowles produced 16 aces and 11 digs with Jackie Koenig adding 11 kills and two blocks.

In pool play, Palo Alto defeated Soquel (25-13, 25-20), downed Santa Cruz (25-20, 25-12) and topped Notre Dame-Salinas, 25-17, 25-16. In the quarterfinals, the Vikings bounced San Benito (25-14, 25-10) for the second time in three days.

In the SCVAL El Camino Division on Tuesday, Gunn (1-0, 13-4) opened its league season with an easy 25-9, 25-8, 25-20 victory over host Fremont on Tuesday night. Alana Titzler served four aces and Anna Simanovskaia had a match-high six kills for the Titans. Alyn Shen dished out 20 assists.

In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton (1-0, 8-5) opened its league season with a 25-15, 25-9, 25-17 triumph over visiting San Mateo. Diane Seely had 10 kills and six blocks for the Bears while Hannah Branning added 10 digs and Sarah Collins contributed 19 assists, seven digs and nine kills.

The Bears were coming off a second-place finish in their own Menlo-Atherton Varsity Invitational on Saturday. Second-seeded M-A dropped a 9-25, 25-15, 15-12 decision to fourth-seeded Homestead in the title match.

Menlo-Atherton went 3-0 in pool play with victories over Saratoga (25-21, 25-11), Homestead (25-12, 25-15), and Sobrato (25-12, 25-12). The Bears topped Live Oak in the semifinals (25-12, 25-16) before Homestead avenged its earlier defeat to M-A.

The Bears were led by Collins (50 assists, 26 digs), Seini Moimoi (19 blocks), and Regina Mullen (25 kills, 8 aces).

In nonleague action on Tuesday:

Castilleja (12-2) rolled over host Pinewood, 25-7, 25-4, 25-12, as Abby Thornburg served 13 aces and Sophie Koontz added eight. Hannah Boland finished with a team-high 12 kills for the Gators after registering 35 kills and 10 blocks to pace Castilleja to a 4-1 mark and second-place finish at the Westmont Tournament last weekend.

At the Westmont Tournament, Castilleja fell to West Bay Athletic League rival Mercy-Burlingame in the championship match, 25-15, 25-15.

Castilleja swept Lynbrook (25-19, 25-16), Sequoia (25-14, 25-13) and San Lorenzo Valley (26-24, 25-9) to reach the Gold Division semifinals where the Gators upended CCS rival Mt. Madonna, 25-14, 25-18, to reach the finals.

Junior Hannah Boland had 35 kills and 10 blocks during the tourney while sophomore Lucy Tashman added 24 kills and 30 digs. Lindsey Wang contributed 54 digs and eight aces while Hannah Hsieh produced 76 assists.

In another nonleague match Tuesday, host Sacred Heart Prep (8-5) took on a tough Presentation team and dropped a 25-6, 25-18, 25-11 decision to the WCAL power, which finished second in the Mitty tourney last weekend.

Also at the Harbor tourney, Menlo School finished third in the 16-team event played at Santa Cruz and Harbor highs. The Knights went 3-2 on the day while improving to 8-4 this season.

"Overall, it was a great tournament for us," Menlo coach Chris Crader said. "The girls showed improvement every match, we played really hard and really well, and we gained a lot of great experience."

In the semis, Menlo fell to a strong Aptos squad, 17-25, 25-17, 15-9. Freshman Maddie Huber hit .292 with 10 kills and 12 digs, and Alexandra Ko added seven digs and 14 assists. Huber was named to the all-tournament team.

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