Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - November 23, 2012

M-A, Priory and SHP all reach semifinals

by Andrew Preimesberger

The girls' volleyball season will continue into the weekend for Menlo-Atherton, Sacred Heart Prep and Priory after all won their respective CIF Northern California playoff openers on Tuesday night.

While the Gators and Panthers remain at home for the semifinals, the Bears will hit the road.

In their last home game of the year, Menlo-Atherton advanced to the Division I semifinals with a sweeping win over No. 5 seed San Ramon Valley (31-11).

Versatile senior Katelyn Doherty led the Bears with 25 assists and 15 digs in the 25-23, 25-22, 25-22 victory.

Fourth-seeded Menlo-Atherton (28-7) l while San Ramon ended its season at 32-11. The Bears next will face No. 1 seed St. Francis of Sacramento (36-2) on Saturday at 7 p.m. M-A beat SF-Sac last year in the NorCal semifinals before losing to Palo Alto in the finals.

"They're going to be a good team," said Doherty. "We just have to be solid all around and know how to pick each other up."

San Ramon Valley began the match on 6-0 run with senior Emily Reder leading the way with three kills. The Bears would climb back with a 6-1 run of their own with three kills from senior Ali Spindt. Junior Paulina King, who turned 16 on Monday, took over the rest of the match with four kills to close on Game 1. She finished with a team-high 10 kills plus 15 digs.

Spindt, who had missed a good portion of the season with a lower back injury, had seven kills in the game and finished with 27 digs. She had two matches with triple-doubles in the Central Coast Section playoffs last week.

"I'm at like 80 percent right now," said Spindt. "I just have to ease my way back in right now. I'll play anything coach wants me to play; whatever I can do to help the team . . . we want to win; we want to go to state."

Doherty, who led the Bears with 375 assists this season, contributed with nine assists in Game 2 to lead M-A.

Doherty connected with King four times in game three. The Bears went on an impressive 12-5 run near the end of the match with sophomore Alyssa Ostrow knocking in three kills. The visitors got to within 24-22 in Game 3, but Spindt found Doherty on the final point of the game and she smashed it past the Wolves' defense to finish off the sweep.

"She took a big swing at that," said said M-A first-year coach Ron Whitmill. "She's been a great player all year. If we didn't have someone as versatile as her on the team, we would've never gotten through all the injuries we had this year. She's been the person to fill in that gap this year."

Whitmill also got 24 digs from Virginia Lane on Tuesday.

Should The Bears get by St. Francis-Sacramento, they would stay on the road for the NorCal finale — either at No. 2 Granite Bay (40-6) or No. 3 Cal High (30-3) of San Ramon.

"We'll take it as far as we can go," said Whitmill. "Our motto all year has been not to worry about wins or losses — just come out and try to be in the moment."

Just a few miles away, top-seeded Sacred Heart Prep opened the Division IV playoffs with a 25-20, 25-22, 25-14 victory over visiting No. 8 Ripon Christian.

The Gators (31-5) were led by senior Ellie Shannon (10 kills, four blocks), senior Sonia Abuel-Saud (10 kills, nine digs), sophomore Victoria Garrick (eight kills, eight digs), senior Payton Smith (eight kills, four blocks), senior Helen Gannon (13 digs), and senior Cammie Merten (31 assists).

Sacred Heart Prep, which has the home court advantage throughout the playoffs, next will host No. 4 seed Bear River (31-12) of Grass Valley on Saturday in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Bear River produced a 20-25, 25-15, 30-28, 25-20 winner over No. 5 Cardinal Newman (25-9) of Santa Rosa in its opener.

Should the Gators win Saturday, they'll host the NorCal finals on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The likely opponent would be No. 2 seed St. Patrick/St. Vincent of Vallejo.

In Portola Valley, Priory earned a berth in the semifinals of the Division V playoffs with a 25-23, 25-13, 27-25 first-round victory over No. 7 Le Grand.

Senior Briana Willhite had a great night with 13 kills and only one error while hitting .571. She added four solo blocks and four digs. Junior Marine Hall-Poirier had another good night with 17 kills and 11 digs. Michaela Koval and Emily Tonogai had 18 and 17 digs, respectively, while Clara Johnson and setter Stephanie Swan also had solid matches for Priory.

The No. 2-seeded Panthers (22-8) next will host No. 3 St. Joseph-Notre Dame of Alameda (27-11) on Saturday at 7 p.m. St. Joseph-ND advanced wit a 25-15, 25-20, 25-20 win over No. 6 Hamilton (23-10).

Should Priory reach the NorCal finals, it likely would face No. 1 Branson at College of Marin on Tueday at 7 p.m.

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