Senior Night could mean plenty, not only for the seniors but for the entire Palo Alto girls' volleyball team, when the Vikings host Los Altos on Nov. 4. It might not be until that evening that Palo Alto wraps up the SCVAL De Anza Division title.
The Vikings had hoped to clinch earlier, but that dream came to an end along with the state's longest winning streak in a 25-20, 16-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-9 loss to visiting Los Gatos on Thursday night.
The loss marked the end of Paly's 26-match winning streak to start the season. It also ended the Vikings' perfect division mark, dropping them to 8-1 and 26-1. Moreover, it was the fist time this season that an opponent had taken the Vikings to a fifth game.
"I did see this loss coming," Paly coach Dave Winn said. "Mountain View exposed some weaknesses on Tuesday (a Paly victory), and without Maddie Kuppe in the lineup to steady us on serve receive and with her offense, we couldn't get it done against a team as solid as Los Gatos.
"And even though we played way below average on serve receive, we still were able to push it to five sets. But, in the fifth set, we made nine errors! That is very uncharacteristic of our team. Some of it was due to Los Gatos' tough serving, but a lot of it was on us. I'm never happy to take a loss, but I am happy that it will focus our girls very directly on what we need to do to get better."
Winn felt that Los Gatos simply played better and that the loss could happen against a team like Los Gatos if his team didn't play its best. Winn said his squad never got into a consistent rhythm, going from hot to cold while Los Gatos continued to press -- serving tough and digging well. Melanie Wade led the Vikings' attack with 20 kills, followed by Trina Ohms with 16 and Caroline Martin with seven kills.
Despite the setback, Palo Alto remains in control of its division destiny. With only a one-game lead over Los Gatos (7-2, 16-9), the Vikings need to win their final league matches against teams they've already beaten. First up will be a match at Saratoga on Oct. 28. After another road trip to Homestead, the Vikings will close out the regular season at home against Los Altos on Senior Night.
In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Allison Doerpinghaus and Kiana Choroski each had 14 kills as host Gunn defeated Cupertino, 25-19, 25-20, 25-23. The Titans improved to 9-0 in league (21-4 overall) as Julia Maggioncalda added 19 digs and nine kills. Julia Li continued her steady play with 17 digs with Alyn Shen adding 27 assists and Monica Cai 20. Nicole Grimwood served five aces and also had digs.
The Titans had trouble putting together long runs of points as Cupertino played consistent volleyball and was able to sideout frequently enough to keep the games close. Gunn actually trailed in Game 3 by 23-20, but managed to win the final five points.
In the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division), Sacred Heart Prep remained just a game out of first place following a 22-25, 25-13, 27-25, 25-22 victory over host Notre Dame-San Jose. The Gators improved to 5-1 in league (15-8 overall) as Sarah Daschbach led the way with 17 kills and 12 digs.
Sonia Abuel-Saud added 16 kills and 14 digs while Hanna Elmore provided 24 assists and Amelia Alvarez had 20. Olivia Bertolacci contributed 25 assists from her libero position.
After losing Game 1, the Gators played exceptionally well in the second with a convincingly win. Notre Dame had game points in the third, but the Gators showed toughness to win it 27-25. Notre Dame also had a substantial lead in Game 4, but the Gators fought back to win it and take the match. Sacred Heart Prep will host WCAL power St. Francis on Monday at 6:30 p.m., in a nonleague match.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton (8-2, 15-7) saw its title hopes pretty much disappear in a 19-25, 25-20, 25-17, 25-17 loss to host Burlingame (10-0, 21-3) on Thursday night. The Bears had a hard time dealing with the Panthers' big hitters, including Michelle Neumayer. The Cal-bound player had 33 kills. M-A's Regina Mullen had 13 kills and 10 digs while freshman teammate Pauli King added 13 kills and 11 digs. Diane Seely provided eight blocks and five kills for the Bears.
Sacred Heart Prep earned a co-championship of the WBAL Foothill Division and an automatic berth into the Central Coast Section tournament with a 202-220 victory over host Harker at the par-34 Los Lagos Golf Course in San Jose on Thursday.
Rachael Henry shot an even-par 34 with one birdie and one bogey to lead the Gators (9-1, 10-1), who won the tiebreaker over co-champ Castilleja for the automatic entry into the section tourney Nov. 2 at Rancho Canada East in Carmel Valley. Both SHP and Castilleja will compete in the WBAL Championships next Wednesday at Poplar Creek in San Mateo.
Michaela Hutter shot a solid 4-over 38 and Shelby Soltau added a 41 for SHP in its regular-season finale. Kennedy Shields (42) and Emma Dake (47) also added to the scoring.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton prevented Aragon from going unbeaten in league play with a 279-285 victory on Thursday at the par-37 Palo Alto Muni Golf Course. Xin Fang led the Bears by earning medalist honors with a 41. The Bears next will compete in the PAL Championships on Tuesday at Poplar Creek