Palo Alto girls pass test in a big volleyball showdown


It was a showdown between two nationally ranked teams, two tournament champions from last weekend and two favorites for Central Coast Section championships this season.

Not too surprising, it took five sets before host Palo Alto defeated Presentation in a top early season nonleague girls' volleyball matchup on Wednesday night, 25-19, 27-25, 19-25, 21-25, 15-11.

"It was a very quality win last night," said Paly coach Dave Winn. "We got exactly what we had hoped for in that match - a win by overcoming some adversity against a great opponent."

Palo Alto (10-0) won its 25th straight match, dating to last season when the Vikings won the CIF Division I state championship. That victory propelled them to a No. 4 national preseason ranking from ESPNRise and a No. 5 national spot this week in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Volleyball Rankings list after winning the High Sierra Classic last weekend in Reno.

Presentation (6-1), meanwhile, was ranked No. 24 by MaxPreps after winning last weekend's Milpitas Spikefest I tourney.

On Wednesday, something had to give between the two talented squads. Paly did well to bounce back after losing its early 2-0 lead. Senior Melanie Wade provided 21 kills and senior Maddie Kuppe added 18, scoring back-to-back points in the deciding set to give Paly a 4-1 lead. Presentation's Emily Sklar nearly served Paly off the court in the third and fourth sets while finishing with 27 kills.

Paly took advantage of a few Presentation errors in the deciding fifth set, including a botched serve to close the match. Caroline Martin, Becca Raffel and Jackie Koenig also played well for the Vikings. Raffel gave Paly a 13-8 lead in the final set before Presentation rallied to get to within 13-10. Kuppe produced a kill at 14-10 to set up the deciding point.

Palo Alto will return to its home court on Tuesday to host 2010 CIF Division IV runner-up Sacred Heart Prep at 6:45 p.m.

Sacred Heart Prep (5-2) also was busy on Wednesday while pulling out a 25-21, 27-29, 25-23, 25-22 nonleague victory over host Menlo-Atherton (3-3). Jesse Ebner led the way with 20 kills and four blocks while fellow senior Sarah Daschbach added 13 kills and 13 digs for coach Damien Hardy.

Junior Ellie Shannon contributed 12 kills and four blocks for the Gators while setter Jojo Kurtzman produced 46 assists. Olivia Bertolacci added 26 digs. Ali Spindt had 12 kills and 14 digs for the Bears while Pauli King contributed 15 kills and 11 digs. M-A coach Jennifer Wilson also got solid efforts from Seini Moimoi (12 kills, seven blocks) and Sarah Collins (19 assists, five digs).

In San Jose, senior Natalie Roy produced 14 kills to lead Menlo School (5-2) to a nonleague sweep of St. Thomas More on Wednesday, 25-21, 25-8, 25-18. Roy added four aces while sophomore middle blocker Sarah Bruml added six kills.

In Portola Valley, host Priory posted a 25-23, 25-22, 25-18 nonleague victory over Cupertino in a season opener.

Boys' water polo

Menlo School opened defense of its CCS Division II title with a solid 14-6 nonleague triumph over visiting Soquel on Wednesday evening.

Soquel reached the section semifinals last season before losing to Sacred Heart Prep, but did beat Menlo in one of its two meetings.

The Knights won their 13th straight season opener despite losing five of their top seven players from 2010. Senior captain Brad Haaland poured in a career-high five goals and also had four assists in addition to earning four ejections.

Menlo coach Jack Bowen liked his team's counter-attack while senior goalie Connor Dillon not only anchored the team on defense with eight saves, but led the way with five assists. Senior Nick Hale continued to show his prowess as a defender while coming up with three steals.

Girls' Water polo

First-year coach Fana Fuqua is still looking for her first victory after her Menlo School squad dropped a 10-6 decision to visiting Mercy-Burlingame in a nonleague match on Wednesday.

Menlo senior Ilana Crankshaw tallied three goals, while junior Kaelen Dunn contributed two goals. Freshman Simran Arora pitched in with her first career goal while senior Isabelle Stepien took over in goal while Lindsay Montgomery recovers from an injury.

"Our young team is coming together, and excited about the next opportunity to improve our skills," said Fuqua.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Pam McKenney of Menlo School

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