Palo Alto Olympian wins a U.S. Open title; local volleyball teams shine at Junior Nationals
Palo Alto High junior Lily Zhang made her final big tuneup for the Olympic Games a good one by winning the Women's Under-21 title in table tennis at the U.S. Open, which wrapped up last week in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Zhang, 15, who was seeded No. 2 behind Olympic teammate and training partner Ariel Hsing, won three matches before meeting Hsing in the finals and winning, 12-10, 6-11, 12-14, 11-8, 11-9. A game is won by being the first player to reach 11 points, with a lead of at least two points.
The title was Zhang's first in the 21-under division, where she also competed last year and reached the finals.
The Vision Gold 18-1 women's volleyball team suffered two losses all season. The last one happened to be in the semifinals of the USAV Girls' Junior National Championships in Columbus, Ohio over the weekend.
Vision Gold, coached by Stanford assistant Jason Mansfield, was the top seed entering the tournament and won its first eight matches before getting upset by Sky High Black, from the Great Lakes Region, 25-23, 19-25, 15-12, to finish third in the Open Division.
Meanwhile, the City Beach Black 18-1 team, coached by Stanford grad Leahi Hall, won the American Division, beating Skyline RoShamBo, 17-25, 25-17, 15-11, in the championship match.
Sacred Heart Prep grads Jesse Ebner and Sarah Daschbach and Menlo-Atherton grad Sarah Collins, all of whom are headed to the Ivy League, are members of Vision Gold, which dropped only two matches during the summer. Castilleja grad Hannah Boland, heading for UCLA, and Mountain View grad Brittany Howard, who will be a freshman at Stanford, were also major contributors. Howard was named to the all-tournament team.
Hall, who is assisted by Stanford grad and Olympian Ogonna Nnamani, went 11-0 in the American Division, dropping only three sets along the way.
A trio of Palo Alto grads, Melanie Wade, Maddie Kuppe and Kim Whitson, completed a rare triple before heading off to different colleges. They've won a couple of Central Coast Section titles, two state titles, and finished with a national title. Wade was named the MVP.
Wade will be at Washington next year, Kuppe is headed to Connecticut and Whitson will be attending Pacific. Of the 10 recent grads on the team, seven have committed to playing volleyball in college.
Other top performances from local teams at the Junior Nationals came from Paye's Performance 17-1 team, which finished third in the Open Division, Vision Gold 16-1 and 14-1 teams each finished seventh in their respective Open Divisions and Vision Gold 15 placed third in the American Division.
Palo Alto's Shelby Knowles, Sacred Heart Prep's Ellie Shannon, M-A's Ali Spindt and Castilleja's Lucy Tashman played for Paye's Performance, which finished 7-2 at the tournament. Spindt made the all-tourney team.
Menlo School's Melissa Cairo and Maddie Huber and M-A's Paulina King helped Vision Gold 16 finish 5-5 while Gunn's Meghan Mahoney and M-A's Kaitlin Tavarez helped guide Vision Gold 15 to a 7-3 record.
Girls' water polo
Three teams from the Stanford Water Polo Club competed in the U.S. Club Championships in San Diego last weekend, but enjoyed a less-than-stellar stay.
The 18s and 16s each finished ninth while the 14s wound up 13th.
The 18s, coached by Jon Burke of Sacred Heart Prep, dropped tough matches to SET, CHAWP and Los Angeles Water Polo Club, but rebounded to win a sudden-death match over Xtreme, toppled Diablo and then beat San Jose in sudden death to finish ninth.
Team members included Elizabeth Anderson from Gunn; Pippa Temple, Erin Sheridan and Bridgette Harper from Sacred Heart Prep; Skylar Dorosin from Paly and Olivia Santiago from Los Altos.
The 16s, coached by Stanford women's assistant Kyle Utsumi, lost to eventual champion SoCal, 8-4, and fifth-place finisher Xtreme, 14-10, but beat Irvine Kahuna, 13-6, to conclude play on Saturday. On Sunday, Stanford topped South Coast, 12-7, beat Foothill, 10-8, and earned ninth by downing 680, 12-7, as Morgan McCracken scored six goals.
Team members included SHP's Kelly Moran, Caitlin Stuewe and McCracken; Caroline Anderson and Rachel Wong from Gunn; Jessica Heilman from Menlo-Atherton; and Courtney Batcheller, Sami Strutner, Katherine Moore, Natalie Williams, Evan Zakula and Anna Edgington from St. Francis.