Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 9, 2011

Important victory keeps Paly perfect

Defending state champion Vikings are off to another 10-0 start after holding off Presentation in an early season showdown

by Keith Peters

The 2011 season has gotten under way for the Palo Alto girls' volleyball team in identical fashion as the 2010 campaign, and that's a very good thing for the Vikings.

Paly started out last year with a 10-0 record and used that as a springboard to eventually winning the CIF Division I state championship and finishing with a 41-1 record.

Palo Alto once again has opened its season with a 10-0 record following a big nonleague win over Presentation on Wednesday. That comes on the heels of the Vikings successfully defending their title at the 32-team, two-day High Sierra Classic in Reno last weekend.

The Vikings now have won 25 straight matches, dating to last season when they finished the year with a 15-match win streak.

Palo Alto also has won seven straight tournaments, also dating to last season, and entered this week ranked No. 5 in the nation in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Volleyball Rankings. The Vikings also have been ranked No. 4 nationally in the Powerade Fab 50 by ESPNRise.

Wednesday's showdown with Presentation was a rematch of the 2009 CCS Division II semifinals, which Palo Alto won in five sets. While the Vikings went on to lose to Mitty in the finals, they bounced back in 2010 to win 26 straight matches. Evidently, beating a quality team like Presentation in '09 certainly didn't hurt Paly's growth heading into its championship season.

Thus, it will be interesting to see how the latest victory plays into the Vikings' success this season. Paly coach Dave Winn has set up the team's toughest schedule ever, which includes upcoming home matches against Division IV state runner-up Sacred Heart Prep (Sept. 13) and Division II state champion St. Francis (Sept. 26) along with Paly's first-ever appearance in the Mitty Tournament (Sept. 16-17).

Presentation certainly provided stiff competition in a showdown that brought together two nationally ranked teams, two tournament champions from last weekend and two favorites for Central Coast Section championships this season.

Not too surprising, it took five sets before host Palo Alto rallied for a 25-19, 27-25, 19-25, 21-25, 15-11 victory.

Presentation (6-1) came in ranked No. 24 nationally by MaxPreps after winning last weekend's Milpitas Spikefest I tourney.

On Wednesday, something had to give between the two talented squads. Paly did well to bounce back after losing its early 2-0 lead. Senior Melanie Wade provided 21 kills and senior Maddie Kuppe added 18, scoring back-to-back points in the deciding set to give Paly a 4-1 lead. Presentation's Emily Sklar nearly served Paly off the court in the third and fourth sets while finishing with 27 kills.

Paly took advantage of a few Presentation errors in the deciding fifth set, including a botched serve to close the match. Caroline Martin, Becca Raffel and Jackie Koenig also played well for the Vikings. Raffel gave Paly a 13-8 lead in the final set before Presentation rallied to get to within 13-10. Kuppe produced a kill at 14-10 to set up the deciding point.

Palo Alto defended its title at the High Sierra Classic on Saturday following a 25-22, 25-15 victory over St. Francis (Sacramento) in the title match. The Vikings swept all nine matches in Reno, 2-0.

"We definitely made fewer errors than most teams we faced," said Winn. "Our blocking was quite an intimidation factor, and all of our servers put a lot of pressure on the opponent's offense. We trailed SF-Sac 7-2 and 10-3 before we came back and outscored them. I was very impressed with our ability to make really good decisions when we were out of system."

Kimmy Whitson and Kuppe both were named to the all-tournament team. Kuppe had 21 kills in the final three matches on Saturday and finished with 61 for the tourney. Whitson had 62 assists in the quarters, semis and finals while finishing the tourney with 168.

Wade led the statistical parade with 71 kills, 42 digs and eight blocks while Martin contributed 29 kills and 37 digs to the winning effort.

Elsewhere on Wednesday:

Sacred Heart Prep (5-2) also was busy while pulling out a 25-21, 27-29, 25-23, 25-22 nonleague victory over host Menlo-Atherton (3-3). Jesse Ebner led the way with 20 kills and four blocks while fellow senior Sarah Daschbach added 13 kills and 13 digs for coach Damien Hardy.

Junior Ellie Shannon contributed 12 kills and four blocks for the Gators while setter Jojo Kurtzman produced 46 assists. Olivia Bertolacci added 26 digs. Ali Spindt had 12 kills and 14 digs for the Bears while Pauli King contributed 15 kills and 11 digs. M-A coach Jennifer Wilson also got solid efforts from Seini Moimoi (12 kills, seven blocks) and Sarah Collins (19 assists, five digs).

In San Jose, senior Natalie Roy produced 14 kills to lead Menlo School (5-2) to a nonleague sweep of St. Thomas More on Wednesday, 25-21, 25-8, 25-18. Roy added four aces while sophomore middle blocker Sarah Bruml added six kills.

In Portola Valley, host Priory posted a 25-23, 25-22, 25-18 nonleague victory over Cupertino in a season opener.

At the Milpitas Spikefest I tourney, Sacred Heart Prep opened its season with a 3-2 record that earned the Gators fourth place on Saturday.

Sonia Abuel-Saud led SHP with 25 kills in the five matches while Ebner added 24 kills and five blocks. Daschbach, another veteran of last season's Division IV state runner-up team, finished with 22 kills while Shannon contributed 19 kills and five blocks.

Elsewhere at the Spikefest:

Gunn went 3-2 and finished second in the Bronze Division (10th overall out of 32 teams). The Titans defeated Castilleja, Valley Christian and Menlo School and lost to perennial powers Mitty and Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Castilleja finished 3-2, Menlo-Atherton went 3-2 and Menlo School finished 11th overall with a 3-2 mark. The Knights beat Westmont, Notre Dame-Belmont and St. Ignatius, last year's CCS Division III champion.

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