The Palo Alto and Sacred Heart Prep girls' volleyball teams are just a victory away from playing for state championships next weekend in San Jose. Both will be facing very different opponents in NorCal finals on Tuesday.
For No. 2-seeded Palo Alto (39-1), it will travel to Stockton to take on No. 1 St. Mary's (31-8) at Lincoln High at 7 p.m.
"Don't know too much about St. Mary's," said Paly coach Dave Winn, "so we'll mostly just have to focus on our own side of the net for the next match."
The Vikings did that pretty well on Saturday night while pulling out a 19-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-20 semifinal victory over No. 3 seed St. Francis-Sacramento (31-8) in Paly's gym.
"Our team showed a lot of resiliency tonight after we lost the first set," said Winn. "The first set was mostly about us making errors, more than SF doing something well. After that it was a great match!"
Winn said he got plenty of contributions from his starters, who avenged last year's loss to St. Francis in the NorCal semifinals. The teams also met earlier this season at High Sierra Classic in Reno, where Paly won in three games.
St. Francis played with much more defensive toughness this time around. Due to a host of Paly hitting errors, SF won the first game with only eight kills. Paly regrouped, and over the next three games, earned 15, 17 and 20 kills, respectively.
Junior Melanie Wade led Paly with 22 kills (.531 hitting) with two blocks and two digs. Senior Trina Ohms added 15 kills and 11 digs while junior Caroline Martin had 10 kills (a season-high .450 hitting with only one error) plus six digs, three aces and two blocks in a very clutch performance.
Junior Maddie Kuppe contributed eight kills, 15 digs and four blocks while junior setter Kimmy Whitson added 53 assists with five kills, two blocks and two digs. Senior libero Megan Coleman finished with 27 digs and two aces.
Palo Alto will take a No. 14 ranking in the state, according to MaxPreps.com, and a school record for most single-season victories into the NorCal finals. This is only the second time in school history that the Vikings have reached the finals, the previous time coming in 2000.
While Palo Alto hits the road to face an unfamiliar opponent, Sacred Heart Prep will be at home to face a familiar one when the Gators meet Notre Dame-Belmont for a third time this season in the NorCal Division IV finals at 7 p.m.
The No. 2-seeded Gators (23-10) and No. 5 Notre Dame-Belmont (26-12) met in the regular season, with ND-Belmont winning a nonleague match. SHP gained revenge by beating NDB for the Central Coast Section title last weekend.
The two will meet for a third time, thanks to Sacred Heart Prep's 25-10, 25-15, 20-25, 25-19 win over No. 3 Marin Catholic on Saturday night and ND-Belmont's win over St. Helena, 25-23, 27-25, 25-17. St. Helena upset No. 1 Ripon in the first round, leaving SHP as the highest remaining seed and the home team for the finals.
SHP advanced behind the standout play of junior Sarah Daschbach, who led the way with 24 kills and 17 digs. Sophomore Sonia Abuel-Saud added 14 kills with 16 digs while junior Jesse Ebner contributed 10 kills and two blocks. Senior Hannah Elmore had 21 assists while junior setter Amelia Alvarez added 18.