Menlo-Atherton girls advance to CCS volleyball semifinals


Senior Devin Joos had 22 kills and 12 digs to lead Menlo-Atherton to a 25-16, 25-15, 25-9 victory over visiting Gunn in a Central Coast Section girls' volleyball quarterfinal on Saturday night.

The top-seeded Bears improved to 26-3 and advanced to the semifinals while Gunn ended its season at 16-15 overall. M-A will take on No. 4 seed San Benito (20-5) on Wednesday's at Piedmont Hills at 5:30 p.m.

The Bears also were No. 1 last year when they reached the semifinals, but saw its season end in a loss to Palo Alto.

"I know if we play well we're a really good team," said M-A head coach Ron Whitmill. "They (Gunn) have a good team; they've had some big wins this year. We were expecting a good match and they played really well and fought hard against us."

Sophomore Kirby Knapp connected with Joos 22 times and totaled 44 out of the 45 assists the Bears had.

"Devin's a special player," said Whitmill. "When she's playing well, she's better than anyone we're going to see all through CCS, that's for sure. Kirby, for a sophomore, does a great job setting the ball to hitters and gets good matchups for us."

Gunn started the first set off with a 5-1 run with errors from the Bears' offense. After a slow start, MA went on a huge 12-3 run with Joos smashing four points in a row. Gunn senior Jessica Dinneen spiked a ball to Joos, but she blocked it for a point and MA won the first set.

The Titans got off to another strong start in the second set with a 5-1 run with points from junior Rachel Gates. M-A prevailed again and went on a monstrous 14-3 run. Knapp found senior Ally Ostrow and she dinked it over for the 25-15 win.

"We had a couple slow starts," said Whitmill. "This team doesn't get rattled to easily so starting off slow isn't something that's going to bother us too much."

"We started to pick it up after we got good passes," said Knapp. "He (Whitmill) was telling us to focus on our side and make sure we get good passes so we can get it to the hitters we want and get the right matchups."

The Titans made it close in the third set as the Bears had just a two point lead, 11-9 early. M-A took off and went on a 14-0 run with three spikes from junior Leanna Collins. Collins closed the third set on a booming spike and the Bears won the last game.

Meghan Mahoney led Gunn with seven kills while fellow senior Nicole Brigham added five kills.

"I feel confident in my team," said Joos, who earlier in the week signed a National Letter of Intent to play next season at UC Santa Barbara. "We're picking up and we're a lot more focused. All of the girls understand that this is the last game for the seniors if we lose -- we have more to play for."

Elsewhere on Saturday night:

Sixth-seeded Palo Alto (19-12) saw its season end in a 25-21, 19-25, 25-23, 25-21 loss to defending Division I champ Homestead. Also advancing was Carlmont. The Homestead-Carlmont winner will face either M-A or San Benito in the CCS title match next Saturday at Independence High in San Jose.

In Division IV, No. 4 Menlo School (21-14) advanced to the semifinals with a 25-13, 25-20, 25-18 victory over No. 5 Carmel (26-4) in Atherton. Senior outside hitter Lida Vandermeer had 12 kills and five aces for the Knights, who had seven kills, four blocks and 16 assists from senior setter Elisa Merten. Payton Mack had four kills, five blocks and two aces for Menlo. Kristin Sellers had 16 assists for the Knights, who will visit top-seeded Notre Dame-Belmont (30-5) on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

In the other half of the bracket, No. 7 Sacred Heart Prep (18-14) saw its season end in a 25-16, 25-17, 21-25, 25-20 loss to No. 2 Harker (17-8) in Campbell. The Eagles beat the Gators for a third time this season, including the WBAL Foothill Division regular season.

With senior Victoria Garrick still sidelined with a hand injury, SHP turned to senior Kendall Reich for 15 kills and 12 digs. Cate Desler added 14 kills, senior Natalie Marshall finished up with 32 assists and 15 digs and Jorden Schreeder added 19 digs.

In Division V, No. 3 Pinewood posted a 25-16, 25-21, 25-17 victory over No. 6 St. Thomas More in Los Altos Hills. Mehra den Braven had 20 kills and four aces for the Panthers with setter Maddi Escher adding 27 assists, four kills and four aces. The Panthers (16-8) will face No. 2 Mt. Madonna (13-14) in the semifinals on Wednesday at St. Thomas More in San Jose at 7:30 p.m.

Pinewood coach Michael Shorts reportedly was fired three weeks ago by Pinewood Athletic Director Matt Stimson. The team has been coached by junior varsity head coach Niki Maser.

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