By Andrew Preimesberger
Palo Alto Online
The top-seeded Palo Alto girls' volleyball team won its second straight Central Coast Sections Division I title on Saturday with a 25-19, 25-19, 25-14 sweep over Menlo-Atherton at Independence High in San Jose.
The top-seeded Vikings (33-3) won for the 18th straight time while handing the No. 2-seeded Bears (29-6) their third straight setback in the CCS finals.
Senior middle blocker Melanie Wade had 22 kills and six digsto lead Paly, which made program history with back-to-back crowns. Fellow senior Maddie Kuppe added 16 digs and 11 kills.
Palo Alto started out strong as they were led by senior leaders Wade and setter Kimmy Whitson. The duo met up nine times and Whitson finished with 32 assists and four aces.
M-A junior Ali Spindt had a solid performance while finishing with 9 kills.
"They kept their composure," Paly coach David Winn said of his veteran team, which won NorCal and state titles last season. "They played hard because they've been in this type of situation before." .
Next up for Palo Alto will be the NorCal playoffs, which begin Tuesday.
On Sunday, Palo Alto received the No. 1 NorCal seed and received a first-round bye. The Vikings will host the winner of No. 7 Skyline of Oakland (13-8) and No. 4 San Ramon Valley (34-8) on Saturday at 7 p.m. A victory there will give Paly a home match on Nov. 29 for the NorCal championship and state meet berth.
Despite losing to Palo Alto in the CCS finals, Menlo-Atherton received the No. 3 seed and will host a first-round match Tuesday against No. 6 St. Mary's of Stockton.
Top-seeded Sacred Heart Prep ran into a tough No. 2 Soquel squad and suffered a 25-23, 25-20, 26-14 loss in the championship match on Saturday at Independence High in San Jose.
The Gators (23-7) won last year's title and advanced to the CIF Division IV state championship match before losing. Sacred Heart will have to take a different route this time, hitting the road for the NorCal playoffs instead of playing at home. NorCal action begins Tuesday with the No. 5 Gators traveling north to face No. 4 Willows (33-7) at 7 p.m.
Against Soquel (31-4), the Gators were led by seniors Jesse Ebner with 12 kills and four blocks as well as Sarah Daschbach, who contributed 11 kills and 15 digs.
Second-seeded Castilleja captured its first section title since 2006 with a hard-fought 25-23, 24-26, 25-15, 21-25, 15-6 victory over top-seeded Priory on Saturday at Independence High in San Jose.
The Gators (20-14) received the No. 3 seed for NorCals and will host a first-round match on Tuesday against No. 7 SF University (26-10) while the Panthers (25-5) got the No. 5 seed and will have to travel to face No. 4 Ripon Christian (27-10).
In the CCS finals, Castilleja had a chance at a possible sweep after winning the first game and holding a 24-21 lead in the second after having to rally. The Gators couldn't finish, however, and Priory had a second life.
Castilleja coach Tracie Meskell, who turned the day-to-day coaching duties over to her sister Gwen in order to give birth to her first baby, nonetheless was on hand to support her team.
"Lindsey Wang had to play libero for us and gave a stellar performance, making some saving digs in all areas of the court to keep the game going and to help turn the momentum in our favor," Meskell said. "She also passed very well all match. (Hannah) Boland and (Lucy) Tashman both turned it on as well and had match-high kills.
"I think some key plays that stand out are Tashman serving up some aces in Game 5 to get the ball rolling and Boland in Game 3 and 4 really connecting with her hits which fired up the team. The kill by Emily Pedersen to end the match also summed up the game in that everyone contributed this match."