Palo Alto has such lofty expectations because the Vikings are ranked No. 67 in the nation, No. 19 in the state overall (No. 15 among Division I teams), No. 4 overall in CCS and No. 1 in CCS among Division I teams.
Palo Alto also was 26-0 this season, 8-0 in the division following Tuesday's 25-16, 25-20, 20-25, 25-23 victory over visiting Mountain View (5-3, 10-7). The victory clinched no worse than a three-way tie for the division crown with three matches remaining.
"What I really liked about last night was our resilience to the stress Mountain View placed on us," said Paly coach Dave Winn. "We had to earn a tremendous amount of our points . . . in set 1 alone we had to earn 19 points (17 kills and two aces). Usually teams are a little more charitable with the amount of errors they give us.
"Speaking of which, we were way too charitable with our service errors. But, I did have a game plan that we'd have to serve very aggressively to keep Mountain View out of system to minimize Brittany Howard's attack. And since she only had 14 kills, I guess I can be slightly less annoyed with our 17 service errors. We'll have to do a better job of serving tough and accurately against Los Gatos."
The Vikings had a chance to earn no worse than a co-title by beating second-place Los Gatos on Thursday night. (For results, go to www.pasportsonline.com). After that, Paly has road matches against Saratoga (a chance to win the league crown outright) and Homestead, sandwiched around an appearance at the Spikefest II tournament, before closing division play against Los Altos on Senior Night (Nov. 4).
Should Palo Alto finish that schedule unscathed, the Vikings will take a 35-0 record into CCS.
On Tuesday, Paly handled the challenge offered by Mountain View, which is dealing with standout Brittany Howard. The Vikings limited her to 14 kills despite missing 6-foot-2 junior Maddie Kuppe.
Paly still had plenty of weapons as junior Melanie Wade finished with 20 kills (.452 hitting), four blocks and two aces. Senior Trina Ohms also came through with a big night of 18 kills (.353), eight digs and four aces while junior setter Kimmy Whitson had 46 assists, five digs, two aces and three kills. Senior Megan Coleman provided 16 digs from her libero position while Caroline Martin added eight kills (.333), two digs and an ace.
Sophomore Shelby Knowles filled in for Kuppe and contributed a sound effort, while junior Jackie Koenig also provided a solid performance to keep the Vikings perfect.
After dropping Game 3 — the Vikings have lost only four games this season — Paly bounced back and grabbed a 5-0 lead in Game 4 and pushed the lead to 13-5 while determined not to go to a fifth game. Ohms put away the final kill to wrap up the victory.
In the SCVAL El Camino Division, (Gunn (8-0, 20-4) remained firmly in first place with another easy victory, this time a 25-10, 25-12, 25-7 sweep of visiting Santa Clara. Julia Maggioncalda had 12 kills, six aces and six digs to spark the victory. Allison Doerpinghaus added seven kills and Molly McAdam had six, while Julia Li contributed 15 digs while Adrienne Thom had eight. Other contributors were Nicole Grimwood with five aces, Monica Cai with 17 assists, and Alyn Shen with eight assists.
In the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division), Sacred Heart Prep's stay in first place was a short-lived one as the Gators fell to defending champion Mercy-Burlingame, 19-25, 25-22, 25-18, 18-25, 15-12 on Tuesday night. Sacred Heart (4-1, 14-8) got 22 kills and 16 digs from sophomore Sonia Abuel-Saud plus 13 kills and 14 digs from junior Sarah Daschbach. Amelia Alvarez and Hanna Elmore had 20 and 19 assists, respectively.
In Atherton, host Menlo School used a balanced attack to defeat Castilleja, 18-25, 25-10, 25-16, 25-22.
Menlo freshman Maddie Huber had 11 kills and 11 digs while junior Hannah Boland led Castilleja with 15 kills. Menlo senior Jazmin Moledina added 10 kills and five blocks while freshman Maddy Frappier contributed nine kills. Senior Anelise Hohl hit a team-best .462 with seven kills and sophomore Alexandra Ko provided 35 assists and 10 digs. Freshman Melissa Cairo had nine digs while junior Natalie Roy added seven digs and three aces.
Castilleja bounced back from consecutive losses to defeat visiting Harker, 25-22, 25-18, 25-22, in a WBAL Foothill Division match on Wednesday. The Gators (3-3, 24-5) got 13 kills from both Laura Rose and Hannah Boland and 37 assists from Hannah Hsieh.
At Serra High, Menlo School fell back into the pack after dropping a 25-9, 25-20, 25-23 decision to defending champion Mercy-Burlingame. Mercy (5-0, 18-6) went 10-0 in the WBAL last season and introduced nine seniors prior to the match — using all nine in its 10-player rotation.
Menlo (3-2, 16-8), on the other hand, had three freshmen in its starting lineup and it showed. The Knights got off to a slow start before rallying to have chances in Games 2 and 3. The Crusaders, however, had too much experience.
In the WBAL (Skyline Division), host Pinewood ended a losing streak with a 25-18, 25-16, 22-25, 25-10 triumph over Eastside Prep. Lizzy Field led Pinewood with 18 kills (.343 hitting), three blocks, three digs and two aces. Lindsay Riches had 18 digs and seven aces while Jenn Bodine added 15 digs and four aces.
Setter Adrienne Whitlock bounced back from a thumb injury last week to provide 24 assists, eight digs and three kills. Also contributing to the victory was Soolim Song (four kills, two blocks, four digs) and Gabrielle Wainwright (four kills, six digs). Pinewood served 15 aces and had 70 digs with libero Kandace Korver getting 13 digs.
In the PAL Bay Division, host Menlo-Atherton (8-1, 15-6) got eight kills and four blocks from Diane Seely and nine kills and six digs from Regina Mullen in a 25-1, 25-14, 25-10 romp over Hillsdale (0-9, 2-22).