Playing in the Central Coast Section Division I volleyball playoff finals is nothing new for the Menlo-Atherton girls. After all, the Bears have been in the title match four of the past five years.
That number is now up to five in the past six following Menlo-Atherton's 25-18, 25-12, 25-19 victory over No. 4 seed San Benito in the section semifinals on Wednesday at Piedmont Hills High in San Jose.
While the Bears have been successful in reaching the finals in recent years, winning the title has still be difficult. M-A has only one section crown in program history, that coming in 2012 against Homestead.
Homestead bounced back from that loss and beat Palo Alto last year after Paly had knocked the Bears out in the semifinals. On Saturday night, Homestead and Menlo-Atherton will renew their rivalry in the finals once again at Independence High in San Jose at 7 p.m.
The No. 3-seeded Mustangs (24-13) advanced with a victory over No. 7 Carlmont on Wednesday.
Both Menlo-Atherton and Homestead have earned berths into the NorCal playoffs, which begin Tuesday. The section winner will get to host while the runner-up most likely will travel.
Menlo-Atherton, the reigning PAL Bay Division champ, got off to a slow start against San Benito before finding a groove and cruising to its ninth straight triumph.
Senior co-captain Devin Joos produced 24 kills and 21 digs to pace the Bears. Joos hit .330 with only seven errors in 51 attempts. Sophomore Kirby Knapp added 50 assists and three digs, senior co-captain Ally Ostrow contributed 12 kills and nine dig, senior co-captain Kaitlin Tavarez finished with 20 digs, sophomore Jacqueline DiSanto added 12 digs, junior Leanna Collins had 10 kills and hit .350 with only one error in 26 attempts, and sophomore Alexa Roumeliotis contributed 13 digs to the effort.
While Menlo-Atherton advanced, Menlo School and Pinewood both suffered setbacks in the semifinals and saw their respective seasons end.
In Belmont, No. 4 Menlo School (21-15) dropped a 25-9, 25-16, 19-25, 25-14 decision to top-seeded and host Notre Dame-Belmont (31-5) in Division IV.
The Knights, who won last year's title and reached the state finals, got 15 kills from senior Lida Vandermeer plus 19 assists, 13 digs and eight kills from senior Elisa Merten.
In San Jose, No. 3 seed Pinewood (16-9) was knocked out of the Division V playoffs followong a 25-23, 17-25, 25-18, 25-13 loss to No. 2 Mt. Madonna at St. Thomas More. Junior outside hitter Mehra den Braven led Pinewood with 24 kills while her twin sister, Tehmi, provided 18 digs. Freshman setter Maddi Escher contributed 30 assists for the Panthers, who have no seniors on their roster.