M-A pulls big upset, but Menlo School falls in semifinals


The Menlo-Atherton and Menlo School girls both had an opportunity to avenge volleyball losses on Saturday night in the semifinals of the CIF Northern California playoffs. The Bears were successful, but the Knights were not.

The No. 3-seeded Bears gained revenge by upending No. 2 Pitman (30-7) in Turlock, 26-28, 25-21, 25-20, 25-22 in Division I action. The Pride defeated M-A in the NorCal finals last season.

Menlo-Atherton (26-7) will visit No. 1 seed Monte Vista (34-5) in Danville in a regional championship match at 7 p.m. The winner advances to the state finals on Saturday at Santiago Canyon College in Southern California at 8 p.m.

Defending state champ Redondo Union (34-4), the No. 4 seed, will face No. 6 Trabuco Hills (33-4) in the SoCal title match on Tuesday.

Jacqueline DiSanto had 19 kills, 24 digs and four aces to lead the Bears. Fellow junior Eliza Grover had 11 kills plus 12 digs with sophomore Lauren Heller adding 10 kills. Junior libero Alexa Roumeliotis had 40 digs for the Bears, who also had 57 assists and 18 digs from junior Kirby Knapp and 15 digs from junior Kiana Sales.

In a showdown between Central Coast Section finalists, No. 4 Menlo nearly toppled top-seeded Notre Dame-Belmont, which held on for a 20-25, 25-17, 18-25, 25-14, 17-15 in a NorCal Division IV semifinal in Belmont.

The Knights (23-8) closed out a stellar season in which they advanced to the CCS title game, won a third consecutive West Bay Athletic League Championship and took second in the Chris Chandler Invitational.

"I am really proud of our team. I thought we played really hard, " said Menlo coach Steven Cavella. "Even though we lost . . . I was really proud of our group effort."

Against the two-time defending champion Tigers, outside hitter Maddie Stewart posted a team-high 13 kills. Junior middle Mia Vandermeer had eight kills and senior Payton Mack added seven.

The Knights switched to a 5-1, went with a smaller lineup at times, and had one of its most productive matches on the block, particularly against top hitters Katie Smoot and Tammy Byrne. Led by Mack's eight blocks, the Knights caused the Tigers to redirect. Sophomore Ashley Dreyer and Vandermeer finished with five blocks apiece and sophomore setter Kristin Sellers added three.

Not only was Sellers at the net -- she distributed 37 assists, she also had 19 digs. Junior libero Jessica Houghton picked up 17 digs and Caroline Bradley had 13 for Menlo.

"We played good defense, and dug a lot of balls - it was a good effort," Cavella said. "You never want to get knocked out in playoffs - especially at this point when they've put in so much work . . . I'm really proud of our season, and really proud of our players."

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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