M-A seniors earned extra credit for teamwork


By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Sports

Sarah Collins, Hannah Branning and Seini Moimoi all played for the same Vision Club volleyball team over the summer. The extra teamwork paid off.

The seniors helped the Menlo-Atherton High girls' volleyball team recover from a first-set loss to beat visiting Carlmont, 19-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-17, on Tuesday in a PAL Bay Division match.

The Bears (12-4, 5-0 in league play) are the only remaining unbeaten team left in the division. Carlmont, coached by former Menlo School coach Chris Crader, fell into a tie for second place with Aragon at 4-1.

M-A, coached by Stanford graduate Jennifer Wilson, has a date with the Dons on Thursday in San Mateo, while the Scots host San Mateo.

The Bears, who reached the 2010 Central Coast Section Division I title match against eventual state champion Palo Alto, again should be a factor in the postseason. Tuesday's win will go a long way to help determine seeding in the CCS tournament.

Crader, also a Stanford graduate, is in his first year with the Scots, so he wasn't around when Carlmont took Palo Alto (also coached by a Stanford graduate, Dave Winn) to four sets in last year's CCS semifinal match.

Crader still received some of the benefit, as his four returning seniors have Carlmont near the top again. The Scots edged Aragon in five sets last week.

Crader led the City Beach 15 Black club team to the bronze medal at the Junior Olympics in Atlanta over the summer. His club teams have also earned a silver medal (2004) and two other bronze medals (2005, 2007).

Crader has been at Stanford for 26 years, both as a student and employee. He's currently a computer support specialist in the fund-raising and alumni office. Crader has also worked in the athletic department, including media relations.

He never met Wilson at Stanford, but knew of her as a volleyball player.

"She was a tiny middle blocker who walked onto the team," Crader said. "People who saw her play in high school said she had a huge heart and was a great leader on the team."

Wilson, a sophomore on Stanford's 2004 national championship team, never got a lot of playing time for the Cardinal, but having gone through the experience of becoming a college player has played her develop relationships with her current team.

She might even repeat something Stanford coach John Dunning emphasized over the years.

"I'm sure subconsciously things come out but I definitely have my own coaching skills," Wilson said. "I know the girls now and have been with them three years, some even longer. I have some good relationships with them. What's important is to show you care about them more than just as a player."

That's something that has rubbed off on her team.

"She drills us on ball control every single day like she said she went through in college," Collins said. "That's definitely improved our play. She is more committed and puts in a lot of effort. She really cares."

Players like Collins, Branning and Moimoi, who have made a commitment to the sport, make it all worthwhile for Wilson.

Senior Jacqueline Stoner and sophomore Pauli King also played for a Vision club team.

"These are excellent students who have high expectations and want to do great things," said Wilson, who teaches sixth grade at Charles Armstrong. "A lot of them want to play in college and having been through the process, I want to give them the insight I wish I could have had. It's easy to talk about my experiences because they want the same experience."

Branning had 17 digs and four aces (all during a streak of 12 consecutive serves that finished the match) for the Bears while Ali Spindt added 15 kills and 13 digs. Collins contributed 39 assists, King finished with 13 kills, seven digs and two blocks and Moimoi added 10 kills and eight blocks for M-A, which captured the last 13 points in a decisive fourth set to close out the match.

In other volleyball action Tuesday night:

In San Jose, senior Hannah Boland produced 18 kills, eight blocks and two aces to a 27-29, 25-21, 25-22, 25-13 victory over host Notre Dame-San Jose in a West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) match.

The Gators (3-0, 15-8) remained tied for first place with Sacred Heart Prep as junior Lucy Tashman added 15 kills, 22 digs and two aces with junior setter Hannah Hsieh adding 36 assists and 13 digs against the host Regents (0-3, 10-7). The Gators will play host to SHP on Thursday in a showdown for first place at 5:45 p.m.

In Burlingame, Menlo School downed Mercy-Burlingame in a WBAL Foothill Division match at Serra High, 25-22, 22-25, 25-18, 25-14. Menlo (2-1, 16-5) got a team-high 14 kills from junior Emma Thygesen while sophomore Maddie Huber added eight. Elisa Merten contributed 27 assists and had seven digs for Menlo, which also had a team total 12 aces and 15 blocks. The Knights host Notre-Dame-San Jose on Thursday at 5:45 p.m.

In Los Altos, Palo Alto remained unbeaten in the SCVAL De Anza Division with a 25-17, 25-18, 25-16 victory over the host Eagles. Melanie Wade led the Vikings (4-0, 17-3) with 18 kills.

In Cupertino, Gunn continued to struggle in the SCVAL De Anza Division following a 25-21, 25-12, 25-21 loss to host Homestead. Julia Maggioncalda had 10 kills for the Titans (1-4, 11-10).

In Los Altos Hills, visiting Priory (3-0, 14-2) remained atop the WBAL Skyline Division following a 25-15, 25-23, 25-13 victory over host Pinewood (2-4, 6-5).

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