By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
When Dave Winn walked off the court at the San Jose State Event Center in December with a state championship in hand, he was completely satisfied. It was mission accomplished for his Palo Alto High girls' volleyball team as the Vikings defeated heavily favored Long Beach Poly for the CIF Division I state crown.
It has been nearly two months since that historic victory by Winn's team, yet the ripples from that huge splash in the volleyball world can still be felt.
Winn recently was named the MaxPreps California Coach of the Year in girls' volleyball and two of his players, junior Melanie Wade and senior Megan Coleman, were named to the all-state team.
"I didn't even know about it until a fellow coach at City Beach sent it to me," Winn said of the honor. "I didn't even know it existed. I think it's pretty cool that a couple of my players received that recognition, too. I've got all the recognition I can handle for one season."
The 6-foot-5 Wade, who led the Vikings to their first-ever state title with 537 kills, 69 blocks and 53 aces during a remarkable 41-1 season, was named to the 11-player Division I first team. Wade also is among the finalists for national junior of the year.
Coleman, a libero who had 543 assists this season, was named to the all-state second team.
Sacred Heart Prep junior Sarah Daschbach, who helped lead the Gators to the Division IV state championship match, was named to the Division IV all-state first team. She had 440 kills, 61 aces and 441 digs this past season. Sophomore teammate Sonia Abuel-Saud (380 kills, 308 digs) was named to the second team.
In Division V, Castilleja junior middle blocker Hannah Boland was named to the first team. She capped her career with 366 kills, 105 blocks and 40 digs.
For Winn, meanwhile, it has been a remarkable five years at Palo Alto. He has compiled a 52-8 record in the SCVAL De Anza Division and is 164-33 overall. He hasn't won fewer than 27 matches in any season -- winning 27 twice before going 33-7, 36-5 and 41-1 this past season while earning a No. 10 national ranking from prepvolleyball.com.
Winn, of course, was pleasantly surprised by the coaching honor.
"I think those who made the selection figured it's pretty hard for a public school to win a state title," Winn rationalized.
Winning such an honor next season might be even more special, given what the Vikings accomplished this season and what's awaiting them next fall.
"We have to have a new motivation every year," Winn said. "Our challenge next year is to build for the future, establish that spirit of excellence with this program. I want to see how deep we can get. We'll lose a lot of seniors and we need to make sure the program is strong for years to come."
Winn figures he was eight players deep this past season and wants that number to grow despite the return of Wade, Kimmy Whitson, Maddie Kuppe, Caroline Martin, Jackie Koenig -- all seniors -- plus junior Shelby Knowles.
Winn wants to make every player better. To accomplish that, he's planning a much-tougher schedule that almost guarantees the Vikings won't be undefeated in 2011.
"We finally got invited to the Mitty Tournament," Winn said. "I guess you have to win a state championship to do that. And, we're hoping to get into the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions. These are two big national recognition tournaments."
Both the Mitty and Santa Barbara TOC have a best three-out-of-five format, which is more difficult than the usual best-of-three format that Paly has played in previous tourneys.
"So, that will be a test of endurance and we'll need a deeper bench," Winn said. "We can't play the same schedule we've been playing."
Thus, the challenge is set.
"We're not going to go 42-0 for the season," he said, noting that it's just not realistic to set that as a target goal. But, the team can get better, despite seemingly having accomplished everything there is to accomplish.
"You set the bar as high as you can, and try to imagine it a little higher," Winn said.
To do that, Winn needs to make Palo Alto a long-term project.
"A lot of people ask me if next year is going to be my last at Paly," Winn said. "I quickly tell them no. The school has provided me with everything I need to be successful. And I like what I'm doing. I'm not going to be jumping around trying to find the best program."
Winn hopes to make Palo Alto the best program. Given what the Vikings accomplished this past season, he's off to a great start.