Palo Alto girls survive volleyball scare, hold off SHP in five


The Palo Alto girls' volleyball team kept its perfect season intact by rallying from a two-set deficit to pull off a thrilling five-set victory over visiting Sacred Heart Prep in a battle between two 2010 state finalists on Tuesday night.

The Vikings (11-0) overcame five game points in the fourth set and got a clinching kill from Jackie Koenig in the deciding set to post a 20-25, 16-25, 25-13, 27-25, 15-11 triumph over the Gators (6-3).

Senior Melanie Wade produced 19 kills to pace Palo Alto, which is the defending CIF Division I state champion while Sacred Heart Prep finished second in the Division IV state finals last season.

Palo Alto's victory improved its two-year winning streak to 26 straight matches, tying the school record the Vikings set to start last season. That streak appeared in jeopardy when the Gators grabbed a 2-0 lead and were deadlocked, 7-7, in the third.

Palo Alto finally got untracked behind a veteran lineup, eventually holding the Gators to .194 hitting (58 kills in 175 attempts with 24 errors).

"We just relaxed," Paly coach Dave Winn set of the turnaround third set. "I tried to remind our team to start having fun and let the results take care of themselves. We cruised in the third set while taking on that attitude and SHP started making errors. The fourth set was just two good teams both playing well."

Junior Sonia Abuel-Saud led SHP with 17 kills and 24 digs while senior Sarah Daschbach added 12 kills and 14 digs. Junior Ellie Shannon finished with 12 kills, senior Olivia Bertolacci had 25 digs while Jojo Kurtzman and Cammie Merten contributed 26 and 20 assists, respectively.

Sacred Heart will host Carlmont on Thursday (6:30 p.m.) while Palo Alto returns to action Friday in the opening round of the Mitty Invitational, facing Santa Ynez at 4 p.m. Paly is the No. 1 seed in the national event.

In other volleyball action Tuesday, Castilleja won on the road with a 25-17, 23-25, 25-14, 25-22 nonleague victory over Live Oak. Hannah Boland led the Gators (4-3) with 13 kills and 11 blocks, Lindsey Wang contributed 13 kills and Hannah Hsieh finished with 30 assists and four aces.

Cross country

Menlo-Atherton opened its Peninsula Athletic League season by dropping meets at Half Moon Bay on Tuesday.

In the boys' race over the 2.3-mile court, the Bears finished second to Carlmont, 36-55. Mike Hester led M-A with a fourth-place finish in 12:17 while teammate Jack Beckwith was fifth in 12:18.

In the girls' race, Menlo-Atherton (151) finished sixth with Carlmont winning easily with 32 points. Taylor Fortnam led the Bears with an eighth-place finish of 15:19.

Girls tennis

Menlo-Atherton opened its season with a 5-2 victory over host Hillsdale in a PAL Bay Division match on Tuesday. The teams split the singles matches quickly, with only nine points being lost, but the Bears swept the doubles while losing just four points.

In Cupertino, Sacred Heart Prep (2-0) remained unbeaten early in the season with a 6-1 nonleague win over the Pioneers. Caroline Nordman, Alexa Bokman and Nicole Schulz lost only six points combined while winning at No. 1, 3 and 4 singles.

Also in Cupertino, Palo Alto opened its SCVAL De Anza Division season with a 6-1 loss at Monta Vista. Felicia Wang posted the Vikings' (1-4) only victory at No. 2 singles, 6-4, 6-3.

In Los Altos Hills, host Pinewood opened its West Bay Athletic League (Skyline Division) season with a 4-3 victory over Castilleja. Tiffany Chen, Katie Weng and Ashley Fuller led the Panthers with wins at No. 2-4 singles, respectively.

Boys water polo

Palo Alto opened its SCVAL De Anza Division season with a 20-4 romp over host Los Gatos on Tuesday.

Girls water polo

Menlo School first-year coach Fana Fuqua got her first victory as the Knights swamped visiting Half Moon Bay, 17-5, in nonleague action Tuesday.

"We had a great team effort today," Fuqua said. "Everyone attempted, or met, their individual goal."

Senior Ilana Crankshaw scored a game-high seven goals for Menlo (1-2) with senior Isabele Stepien adding five. Junior Alyssa Meyer and sophomore Kate Huneke each tallied twice.

In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Palo Alto (0-1, 1-4) dropped a tough 8-7 decision to Los Gatos in a division opener.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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