Dave Winn figured it would probably take two victories in the coming week to all but wrap up another SCVAL De Anza Division title by his Palo Alto girls' volleyball team. Now, it might not take even that.
Thanks to Mountain View's five-game victory over second-place Los Gatos on Thursday night – the final game was a 20-18 marathon in itself – Palo Alto will take a two-game lead into next week's big home matches against Mountain View (Tuesday) and Los Gatos (Thursday), both at 6:45 p.m.
"I knew MV was capable of beating Los Gatos if they passed well enough," said Winn. "I was able to catch Games 4 and 5 last night. In Game 4, Mountain View's serve-receive was really shaky and Gatos took it too them pretty good. But in Game 5, it was very high quality volleyball, never more than one or two points of separation the whole way. And, MV won with Brittany Howard in the back row."
Mountain View's victory pulled the Spartans into a tie for second place with Los Gatos, both teams now with two league losses. First-place Palo Alto is 7-0 (25-0 overall). The Vikings can knock Mountain View out of the race on Tuesday. Even if the Vikings were to be upset by Los Gatos, Paly already has sweeps over its final three opponents – Saratoga, Homestead and Los Altos.
"Having both MV and Gatos with two losses means that even if we get swept next week, we could still tie for a tri-league title with both of them, which wouldn't be bad," Winn said. "But, we're a little greedy and would like to have the title to ourselves. So, our goal is still to beat both of them next week and continue to improve our team's performance going into playoffs. I'm trying to not get my players too amped up about next week and just take it match by match, set by set, point by point. It's worked well so far."
Palo Alto remained perfect on the season with a 25-13, 25-21, 25-9 sweep of host Monta Vista on Thursday night. Junior Melanie Wade and senior Trina Ohms each had 13 kills in the quick victory.
The Gunn girls' volleyball team, meanwhile, is enjoying similar success in the SCVAL El Camino Division following a 25-10, 25-16, 25-16 victory over host Milpitas on Thursday. The Titans are 7-0 in league (19-4 overall) and haven't been really tested. Allison Doerpinghaus led all Gunn hitters with 10 kills and added three blocks. Kiana Choroski had seven kills, Monica Cai recorded 25 assists and five digs, Julia Li had eight digs and Julia Maggioncalda contributed 17 digs. Every server had at least one ace as Gunn totaled 12 service aces on the evening.
In the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division), host Sacred Heart Prep held off two late charges to beat Menlo School, 25-17, 27-25, 25-22, Thursday night and remain unbeaten in division play. The Gators improved to 4-0 (14-7) while the Knights fell out of a tie for first at 2-1 (15-7) after having their seven-match win streak snapped.
The Gators handled the Knights easily in Game 1 but Menlo countered in the second game and had game points, but could not convert. Showing their resiliency, the Gators fought back and won Game 3 on a double block against a Menlo right-side attack. SHP led most of the final game until midway when Menlo came back to tie the game before the Gators regained the lead and finished off the match on back-to-back kills by senior Sarah Daschbach, who finished with 11 kills and 10 digs. Jesse Ebner added 10 kills and six blocks while Sonia Abuel-Saud finished with 13 kills. SHP's Hanna Elmore had 20 assists and seven digs while Olivia Bertolacci contributed 18 digs.
Despite the loss, Menlo coach Chris Crader wasn't all that disappointed.
"Our girls had great energy from the first ball of warmups until the last point of the match, so I'm really pleased about that," said Crader. "Unfortunately, we didn't execute as well as we hoped, and Prep played well. But it was a great experience for our team to play in that environment, and I know our girls will grow a lot from tonight."
Freshman Maddie Huber led the Knights with 10 kills and 11 digs, and senior Jazmin Moledina tallied eight kills, four blocks, four digs and an ace. Freshman Maddy Frappier added seven kills, three digs and three blocks, and classmate Melissa Cairo had 14 digs. Junior Natalie Roy had four kills and nine digs while sophomore Drew Edelman recorded three blocks and three digs. Sophomore Alexandra Ko had 27 assists, six digs and two aces.
In San Jose, Castilleja had to battle back from a 2-0 deficit to pull out a 18-25, 12-25, 25-22, 25-18, 16-14 marathon win over host Notre Dame-San Jose in another WBAL Foothill Division match. The Gators (2-1, 23-3) ot 17 kills from junior Hannah Boland and 15 kills from senior Laura Rose.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton (7-1, 14-6) tuned up for its showdown at first-place Burlingame next week with a 25-12, 25-12, 25-20 victory over host San Mateo on Thursday. Regina Mullen led the Bears with 13 kills and eight digs while Pauli King added five kills and five digs. Diane Seely had eight kills and two blocks while Ali Spindt finished with 16 assists and eight digs while Seini Moimoi had six kills and three blocks.
In the WBAL Skyline Division, visiting Priory (2-2, 12-5) dropped a 25-19, 25-23, 25-18 decision to host Crystal Springs while Pinewood fell to host Mercy-San Francisco, 25-8, 25-16, 25-16. Adrienne Whitlock had 11 digs for Pinewood despite jamming her right thumb (non-hitting hand) trying to set an errant pass.
Sam Parker of Menlo School and Kat Gregory of Priory continued to be the top runners in the West Bay Athletic League after each won individual honors in the second meet of the season on Thursday at Shoreline Park in Mountain View.
Parker won going away in 16:54 over the 3.0-mile course while helping the Knights win the team title with 31 points. Freshman Matt Myers was a solid third in 17:13, trailing Sacred Heart Prep junior Zach Kaplan's 17:06.
Menlo also had sophomore Andrew Schmitt in sixth (17:29), senior Lowry Yankwich in ninth (17:46 and sophomore Michael Machlin in 12th (18:11).
Priory senior Arnaud Kpachavi was seventh in 17:32 as local runners took six of the top 10 places.
In the girls' meet, Gregory won her second straight race while clocking 19:34 on the warm day. Her effort, however, was not reflected in a team finish as the Panthers didn't field a complete team.
Team honors went to Sacred Heart Prep, which totaled 58 points to win by seven over Crystal Springs. Sophomore Kathryn Leahy (21:38) led a 9-10-11 finish by the Gators as seniors Elly Jones (21:41) and Riley Perdue (21:55) chased her to the finish line.
Castilleja, which also did not field a complete team, was led by senior Rachel Skokowski's second-place finish of 20:01. Sophomore teammate Fiona McCarthy-McCrystle was seventh in 21:11. Menlo freshman Maddie Price clocked 20:40 for fourth while helping the Knights finish fifth in the team race.
Castilleja improved to 8-0 in the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) golf standings with a 221-289 victory over Mercy-Burlingame on Thursday at Palo Alto Municipal. Senior Brenna Nelsen once again led the Gators with a 1-over 38 to earn medalist honors. Sarah Debs added a 41 and Taylor Wilkinson shot 44, while Caroline Debs (49) and Stephanie Merenbach (49) rounded out the scoring.
Menlo-Atherton used its homecourt advantage to post a 6-1 victory over Carlmont in a PAL Bay Division match on Thursday. In the teams' previous match, M-A held on for a 4-3 victory by winning the third set of the final match. This time it wasn't as close as the Bears won all their matches in straight sets to improve to 8-2 in league (9-4 overall).
In the WBAL Foothill Division, host Sacred Heart Prep (4-2, 11-5) had an easy time during a 6-1 victory over Notre Dame-San Jose as the Gators won their matches in straight sets, as well. Ronnie Thompson was perfect in her 6-0, 6-0 victory at No. 2 singles.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Gunn (2-6, 7-10) dropped a tough 4-3 decision at Lynbrook while Palo Alto (3-6, 8-6) fell to unbeaten Saratoga, 6-1.
Boys' water polo
Palo Alto kept it close until host Monta Vista scored five times in the third period to break it open and post a 9-7 victory in SCVAL De Anza Division action on Thursday. The Vikings fell to 5-4 in league (6-8 overall) despite two goals each from Ethan Mellberg and Quinn Rockwell.
In the PAL Ocean Division, host Priory (4-4) scored five fourth-quarter goals – two each from Kyle Walden and Michael Wan – to hold off Mills, 15-14. Wan finished with five goals.
Girls' water polo
Gunn tuned up for Tuesday's showdown at home against first-place Los Altos Gatos with an 18-4 swamping of visiting Saratoga on Thursday. The Titans (7-1, 13-1) got six goals from junior Elizabeth Anderson and four from her sister, freshman Caroline, while Missy Barr added three goals.