The second-seeded Menlo-Atherton girls volleyball team advanced to the CIF Northern California playoff finals for the second time in program history with a 25-14, 25-17, 25-23 sweep of visiting Homestead on Saturday night in Atherton.
The Bears improved to 30-3 overall while the Mustangs were knocked out of the playoffs and ended their season at 25-15. Menlo-Atherton has won 12 in a row and will take on top-seeded Pittman of Turlock on Tuesday.
The Bears reached the NorCal finals in 2011 before losing to eventual state champ Palo Alto. M-A also reached the semifinals in 2012.
"Homestead is obviously a very good team," said Bears head coach Ron Whitmill. "Beating them twice in one season is a pretty big accomplishment for my girls. We're playing very good volleyball right now; if we keep this going anything is possible."
Homestead made it close with the Bears in the first set then Menlo-Atherton went on a huge 14-2 run. Junior Leanna Collins spiked down five points during the run to set the tempo for the rest of the game. She finished with 15 kills.
"We have a lot of talented kids on this team," said Whitmill. "We try not to always have Devin (Joos) carrying the load for us. Any time we can get Ally Ostrow and Collins going it takes a lot of pressure off Devin. When we need points you know Devin is always going to be there, same thing with Leanna, they've both been big for us all year this year."
Menlo-Atherton was up by 10 points when Joos spiked a ball to Homestead senior Katie Barker, but all she could do was knock it out of bounds and the Bears won the first set 25-14. Sophomore Kirby Knapp had 19 assists in the set and totaled 42 in three games. She also had 11 digs.
In the second set, Knapp connected with Joos for the seventh time in the set and the senior smashed it passed the Mustang defense and gave the Bears the 25-17 victory. Joos finished with 14 digs and 15 kills, passing the 400 mark for kills in the season with 412.
"When she (Joos) plays well it helps others to play well too," said Collins. "It gives us momentum; we're grateful to have her on the team."
The Mustangs were battling in the third set and tied the game at 23 off of an error from Joos. With the pressure building, the Bears took a timeout.
"In those situations he (Whitmill) always reminds us to slow down," said Joos. "People get so excited in those situations and you feel like you have to make a point as fast as you can. You just need to kind of relax and I try to bestow that as well."
Menlo-Atherton sophomore Eliza Grover slapped the ball over the net with two hands and the Bears took the 24-23 late lead. On the next play, Barker served it over the net but it went out of bounds and the Bears took all three sets.
The No. 2 Bears will take on No. 1 Pittman (43-1) on Tuesday night in Turlock. Pittman eliminated San Ramon Valley in the other semifinal Saturday, 3-0. The winner advances to the CIF State Championships.
"We're playing it by ear," said Joos. "I'm playing on my birthday so I'm excited. We're going to have to prepare for them and see what they have."