Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - November 19, 2010

SHP earns a berth in finals

Paly, Castilleja and M-A hope to join the Gators in section finals Saturday

by Keith Peters

It could be a very busy day for local girls' volleyball teams at the Central Coast Section championships on Saturday at Independence High in San Jose.

Top-seeded Castilleja is expectded to be playing for the Division V title, which begins at 10:30 a.m. Likewise, top-seeded Palo Alto should be on the floor along with No. 3 Menlo-Atherton when the Division I finale gets going around 2:30 p.m.

For sure, fourth-seeded Sacred Heart Prep will be playing when the Division IV title match gets under way at 4:30 p.m.

Castilleja, Palo Alto and Menlo-Atherton all had to win on Thursday night in their respective semifinals. Should all three join SHP on Saturday, all four will be assured of moving on to the NorCal playoffs that begin on Tuesday.

Semifinals will be held Nov. 27 with regional finals scheduled for Nov. 30. The highest seeds will host throughout the playoffs. The state finals will be held Dec. 3 at The Event Center at San Jose State University.

Sacred Heart Prep will be making its second straight appearance in the finals and its third since 2005. The Gators (20-10) earned the opportunity to defend its Division IV title following a 25-21, 21-25, 26-24, 25-23 triumph over No. 1 seed Soquel in a semifinal match Wednesday night at Christopher High in Gilroy.

Junior Sarah Daschbach had a huge game of 19 kills and 31 digs for the Gators (20-10) while sophomore Sonia Abuel-Saud added 10 kills and 14 digs. Senior setter Hannah Elmore provided 22 assists while junior setter Amelia Alvarez added 16.

Sacred Heart will face No. 2 Notre Dame-Belmont in the finals. SHP lost to ND-Belmont back on Sept. 23 in a nonleague match.

In Division I, Palo Alto (35-1) took on No. 5 Carlmont (21-13) in a semifinal match on Thursday at Watsonville High. That winner will play in the finals against the winner between No. 2 North Salinas (28-4) and No. 3 Menlo-Atherton (21-7).

In Division V, Castilleja (26-8) was favored against No. 4 Santa Catalina (17-10) in a semifinal match Thursday night at Alma Heights in Pacifica. That winner will play either No. Mt. Madonna or No. 3 Crystal Springs for the section title.

Palo Alto and Menlo-Atherton are looking for their first-ever CCS titles while Castilleja is shooting for its first since 2006.

Should Palo Alto advance as expected, it perhaps was able to draw upon its learning experience in the quarterfinals last weekend.

"I think we took it for granted that we could win with our offense," said Paly coach Dave Winn. "But, we had to play defense. Quite honestly, we were lucky to win that first game. This was a good learning experience."

Palo Alto faced Monta Vista in what appeared to be a lopsided affair. The Vikings were seeded No. 1 while the Matadors were No. 8. Paly had beaten Monta Vista twice during the SCVAL De Anza Division season and came out Saturday playing like the Matadors would roll over quickly.

Instead, Monta Vista played scrappy and hit the floor for every ball. The Matadors even had two set points in Game 1 before the Vikings finally prevailed and went on to register a 27-25, 25-10, 25-11 triumph.

Thanks to its close call in Game 1 on Saturday, Palo Alto won't be taking anyone too lightly the rest of the way.

"We need to do a better job of respecting our opponent," Winn said. "We knew from the last time we played them that they would be scrappy. And, we had a tremendous amount of hitting errors (in Game 1). Our hitters had to be smarter with their hitting."

After the eye-opener in the first game, Palo Alto settled down and played like the team that was ranked No. 15 in the state in Division I and No. 1 in Northern California in the same division.

"It sure was a nice little bit of breathing room to have after that first game," Winn said.

Palo Alto's hitting improved in the second and third games, as did its passing and defense. Junior Melanie Wade took over and produced 17 kills (.414 hitting) with four blocks. Senior Trina Ohms added eight kills and eight digs, all the while realizing her team needs to play better.

Junior Caroline Martin stepped it up and finished with six kills and .400 hitting from her opposite position. She added nine digs and four aces. Junior setter Kimmy Whitson contributed 40 assists with six digs, three blocks, three aces and three kills in a solid all-around effort. Sophomore Shelby Knowles added five kills (.357 hitting) with three digs.

Also advancing in Division I was No. 3 Menlo-Atherton (21-7), which eliminated San Benito, 25-17, 25-17, 25-18 Regina Mullen and Diane Seely each had eight kills while Hannah Branning added 20 digs from her libero position. Mullen also had three aces and nine digs.

Seventh-seeded Gunn (28-7) was eliminated following a 25-9, 25-15, 26-24 loss to host North Salinas.

In a showdown that had been played out before during the West Bay Athletic League, No. 4 Sacred Heart Prep defeated No. 5 Menlo School, 19-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-21, in the section quarterfinals on Saturday at Valley Christian in San Jose.

Daschbach and Abuel-Saud led the Gators with 20 kills each, while Daschbach added 18 digs and Abuel-Saud finished with 21. Hannah Elmore provided 27 assists and Alvarez added 20.

In the Division V quarterfinals, Castilleja had little trouble advancing while posting a 25-10, 25-13, 25-13 triumph over No. 8 Alma Heights (13-9) at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Junior Hannah Boland led the Gators with 14 kills and eight blocks while sophomore setter Hannah Hsieh added 25 assists and five aces.

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