All the drama was provided by Palo Alto, which was forced to five sets before winning its sixth straight SCVAL De Anza Division crown with a 25-12, 19-25, 18-25, 25-19, 15-11 victory at Los Gatos.
"We definitely had to earn this match," said Paly coach Dave Winn, whose team improved to 11-0 in league (29-3) heading into last night's regular-season finale at Gunn.
"We caught them off guard in the first set," added Winn. "I think the (Los Gatos) seniors were still a bit distracted from all the senior night festivities at their place. We could do no wrong in the first set and aced them a few times.
"But then Gatos woke up and we started making errors. In fact, we missed six serves in the second set alone (but made only two others in the whole match). Most of our timeouts were spent tying to calm down and start trusting one another more."
Winn said his team finally started executing the scouting report on Los Gatos in the fourth set.
"And then it was just two good teams duking it out the rest of the way." Winn said. "We finished with 11 kills to their seven in the fifth set and maintained the spacing until the last thunderous hit from Melanie (Wade) to seal the deal."
The Wildcats (9-2, 22-8) needed a victory to force a co-championship, but instead dropped their second match to the Vikings this season after handing Paly its only loss during a 41-1 campaign in 2010 that saw the Vikings win the CIF Division I state championship.
Paly senior Maddie Kuppe had a career-high 29 kills with 12 digs and Wade added 25 kills, six blocks and four aces. Senior Caroline Martin had 15 digs and three aces, junior Shelby Knowles added 13 digs while senior Kimmy Whitson had a season-high 53 assists to go with four kills and four blocks.
Palo Alto should take a 15-match win streak into next week's opening round of the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs. The defending champion Vikings should get the No. 1 seed and won't host until Thursday at 7 p.m.
Gunn won't be playing next week. The Titans (1-10, 14-18) dropped a 25-22, 22-25, 25-23, 25-23 SCVAL De Anza Division decision to host Monta Vista on Tuesday, despite 18 kills from senior Julia Maggioncalda.
Sacred Heart Prep, meanwhile, wasn't tested like Palo Alto while capturing the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) title with a 21-25, 26-24, 25-15, 25-18 victory over visiting Castilleja on Tuesday night. It was SHP's seventh straight victory.
The Gators (9-0, 21-5) were led by seniors Sarah Daschbach and Jesse Ebner, who had 22 kills and 12 kills, respectively. Senior Olivia Bertolucci had 24 digs for SHP, which closed out the regular season last night at Menlo School.
Castilleja was led by junior Lucy Tashman with 13 kills and four blocks while junior Lindsey Wang added 10 kills and 18 digs. Freshman Jennifer DiSanto contributed 24 digs and two aces for the Gators.
As defending champ, Sacred Heart Prep should get the No. 1 seed for the CCS Division IV playoffs and, like Paly, receive a first-round bye before hosting on Nov. 10. Castilleja (4-6, 17-14), which was upended by Mercy-San Francisco on Wednesday night, also should advance to CCS, playing in the first round next Thursday.
Menlo-Atherton, meanwhile, moved closer to a perfect season in the PAL Bay Division with a relatively easy 25-12, 25-23, 25-15 sweep of Aragon on Tuesday. The Bears (13-0, 25-4), also clinching the division title, got five kills, six digs, four blocks and two aces from junior Katelyn Doherty while normal reserves Sara Altman (four kills, four aces, five digs) and Jaqueline Stoner (four kills) also contributed to the victory.
Menlo-Atherton faced Woodside last night to close the PAL season. The Bears, who finished second to Paly in CCS last season, could receive the No. 2 seed and get a bye into the second round on Nov. 10.
Elsewhere on Tuesday night:
Menlo School extended its winning streak to five matches with a 23-25, 25-10, 25-20, 26-24 victory over host Notre Dame-San Jose in a WBAL (Foothill Division) match. The Knights (7-2, 22-6) got 20 kills, nine digs and two aces from senior Natalie Roy to lead the way.
"I'm proud of our team's performance tonight, facing a good team in a tough gym," said Menlo coach Atlee Hubbard. "We played at a consistent level tonight."
A trio of sophomores also helped rally Menlo, as well. Maddie Huber contributed 13 kills and 10 digs, Maddy Frappier added 11 kills and nine digs with libero Melissa Cairo finishing with 15 digs and four aces. Freshman setter Elisa Merten had 48 assists and eight digs for Menlo, which will Menlo-Atherton on Friday (5:45 p.m.) in a nonleague match, should advance to CCS. The Knights will host the semifinals on Nov. 16, no matter if they are still playing.
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