By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
The 2011 season has gotten under way for the Palo Alto girls' volleyball team in identical fashion as the 2010 campaign, and that's a very good thing for the Vikings.
Paly started out last year with a 9-0 record and used that as a springboard to eventually winning the CIF Division I state championship.
This weekend, Palo Alto once again opened its season with a 9-0 record while successfully defending its title at the 32-team, two-day High Sierra Classic in Reno. The Vikings now have won 24 straight matches, dating to last season when they finished the year with a 15-match win streak.
Palo Alto also has won seven straight tournaments, also dating to last season, and enters this week ranked No. 5 in the nation in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Volleyball Rankings. The Vikings also have been ranked No. 4 nationally in the Powerade Fab 50 by Rise/ESPN.
Now the real fun begins. On Wednesday, Palo Alto will host Presentation in a nonleague match at 6:45 p.m. While Paly was winning its title, Presentation was defeating St. Francis for the Milpitas Spikefest I crown. St. Francis is the defending CIF Division II state champion.
"So," said Paly coach Dave Winn, "this should be a great match."
Palo Alto went 26-0 last season before losing its first match, to Los Gatos in SCVAL De Anza Division action. The Vikings bounced back to win their next 15 and the state title. The Vikings, however, will be tested earlier and more often than last season when they finished 41-1 -- the best record in school history.
Palo Alto is off to another great start after winning four straight matches on Saturday, topped by a 25-22, 25-15 victory over St. Francis (Sacramento) in the title match, which was a rematch of last season's NorCal semifinal. The Vikings swept all nine matches in Reno, 2-0.
"We definitely made fewer errors than most teams we faced," said Winn. "Our blocking was quite an intimidation factor, and all of our servers put a lot of pressure on the opponent's offense. We trailed SF-Sac 7-2 and 10-3 before we came back and outscored them. I was very impressed with our ability to make really good decisions when we were out of system."
Seniors Kimmy Whitson and Maddie Kuppe both were named to the all-tournament team. Kuppe had 21 kills in the final three matches on Saturday and finished with 61 for the tourney. Whitson had 62 assists in the quarters, semis and finals.
Fellow Paly senior Melanie Wade led the statistical parade with 71 kills, 42 digs and eight blocks. Senior Caroline Martin contributed 29 kills and 37 digs to the winning effort.
After going 3-0 on Friday, Paly opened Saturday by defeating Bishop Monogue, 25-11, 25-17. The Vikings then toppled Wood Creek, 25-17, 25-6; ousted Galena, 25-12, 25-11; beat Del Oro, 25-12, 25-22; downed Nevada Union in the semifinals, 25-17, 25-10, before winning the title by beating St. Francis-Sacramento.
The 6-foot-5 Wade had nine kills in the title match and 14 against Nevada Union while Whitson had 21 assists in the finals and 27 in the semifinals. She finished with 168 assists for the tourney.
At the Milpitas Spikefest I tourney, Sacred Heart Prep opened its season with a 3-2 record that earned the Gators fourth place on Saturday.
SHP defeated Christopher (Gilroy), 25-6, 25-20, to open the tourney before beating Menlo-Atherton in the second round, 25-23, 25-23. The Gators won their third match with a 25-18, 25-16 win over Mountain View before running into defending CIF Division II state champ St. Francis and dropping a 25-18, 25-23 decision. In its final match, Sacred Heart dropped a 25-17k 25-21 decision to Mitty.
Sonia Abuel-Saud led SHP with 25 kills in the five matches while Jesse Ebner added 24 kills and five blocks. Sarah Daschbach, another veteran of last season's Division IV state runner-up team, finished with 22 kills while Ellie Shannon contributed 19 kills and five blocks.
Elsewhere at the Spikefest:
Gunn went 3-2 and finished second in the Bronze Division (10th overall out of 32 teams). The Titans defeated Castilleja, Valley Christian and Menlo School and lost to perennial powers Mitty and Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Castilleja finished 3-2, Menlo-Atherton went 3-2 and Menlo School finished 11th overall with a 3-2 mark. The Knights beat Westmont, Notre Dame-Belmont and St. Ignatius, last year's CCS Division III champion.
Tyler McCool rushed eight times for 145 yards and scored two touchdowns to pace Sacred Heart Prep to a 39-0 blasting of San Lorenzo Valley in a nonleague season opener on Saturday in Atherton.
McCool had an 80-yard TD run just before halftime that gave the Gators a 33-0 lead. A few minutes earlier, McCool ran it in from 43 yards out to make 27-0. All of McCool's yards came in the first half.
Jack Larson made his starting debut at quarterback for SHP and responded with 95 yards and two touchdowns on 6-of-13 passing.completion. Ryan Gaertner caught a 15-yard scoring pass and Duke Moran latched on to an 18-yard TD reception.
Sacred Heart's defense also rose to the challenge, holding SLV to just 67 yards of total offense in the first half. Luke Quinton, who didn't play football last season, was among the defensive standouts for SHP. Luke Thomas and Fatu Tupou, both defensive ends, also contributed to the big shutout.
Girls water polo
Gunn opened its season with a big 17-8 nonleague victory over defending Central Coast Section Division I champion Menlo-Atherton on Friday as Elizabeth Anderson scored seven goals and her sister, Caroline, added five.
On Saturday, the Titans dropped a tough 9-5 nonleague match to North Coast Section power Las Lomas, with Elizabeth Anderson tallying all give goals for Gunn (1-1).