Bears need five sets to turn out the Knights in girls volleyball


Menlo-Atherton looked to have Tuesday's rivalry volleyball match with Menlo School just about wrapped up in the fourth set.

The Bears were up 2-1 in the match and were at set point with a 24-19 lead.

Then Menlo School got hot, reeling off six consecutive winners to take a 25-24 lead before posting a stunning 27-25 victory to tie the match.

All the momentum on Menlo School’s side. Right?

Well, not exactly. M-A jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the fifth set and went on for a 15-2 win. Nothing at all like the tightly-contested first four sets, which went 22-25, 26-24, 25-18, 25-27.

“We decided to take a nap," M-A coach Fletcher Anderson said in regard to the conclusion of the fourth set. “They were just as mad as I was and they showed that in the fifth set.”

The match was Menlo-Atherton’s season opener. Menlo School (4-3) had already taken part in a tournament over the weekend.

First-year Menlo School coach Marco Paglialunga, formerly the coach of the Italian junior national team, tried to make sense out of the turn of events.

“When we try to play alone, when we try to make plays on our own we get in trouble,’’ Paglialunga said. “We have to trust in the system. We’ve been together for 18 days. We need more time. In our win over St. Francis I saw us play good volleyball. Now we need to do it consistently.”

Senior standout Jacqueline DiSanto led the way in the fifth set for M-A, much as she had done throughout the match.

A multi-dimensional player who has committed to the University of Michigan, DiSanto led the Bears with 28 kills in 52 attempts for a .480 hitting percentage. She also had 16 digs, sharing team-high honors with Kiana Sales.

“She can get it done from the back row and from the front row," Anderson said. “She has superb athleticism and a volleyball IQ that’s through the roof."

DiSanto was part of a team a year ago that went further than any M-A team had ever gone, winning the first Northern California title in school history before losing in the Division I state finals to Redondo Union.

A number of players graduated off that team, but not enough to limit DiSanto’s goals.

“We have really high expectations," DiSanto said. “The newcomers are being held to a really high level. I think we can go just as far."

Setter Kirby Knapp, who has committed to Washington University of St. Louis, is another returning starter from the 2015 team. She had 57 assists Tuesday.

Eliza Grover, another returning starter, had 13 kills for the Bears, who host Saint Ignatius on Thursday at 6:15 p.m.

For Menlo, sophomore Grace King collected a team-high 18 kills on 41 swings, hitting .341.

Senior Mia Vandemeer had 10 kills, and junior Ashley Dryer added nine.

Senior Jessica Houghton delivered eight aces and posted 27 digs for the Knights. Junior Kristin Sellers had 26 assists and sophomore Selina Xu 24.

Menlo heads to Santa Cruz for an 11 a.m. match Saturday.

In another nonleague match, host Sacred Heart Prep swept Hillsdale, 25-18, 25-20, 25-15, as Cate Desler netted 14 kills and Natalie Zimits added eight kills and six blocks.

The Gators (5-1) travel to Half Moon Bay for a nonleague match at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Setters Haley Martella (17 assists) and Alexa Thompson (15 assists) distributed the ball fairly evenly and libero Caroline Caruso added 10 digs.

Palo Alto opened its season with a three-set loss to host St. Ignatius (6-1) and Pinewood (1-1) fell to host Fremont of Sunnyvale, 25-21, 25-9, 23-25, 25-16.

Girls' water polo

Menlo School opened the season with a 9-5 nonleague victory over visiting Half Moon Bay, giving coach Alana Burgess' a win in her Knights debut on Tuesday.

The Cougars (1-1) opened the second half with three unanswered goals before Menlo countered, breaking a 5-5 tie when junior Sarah Donato scored with 3:12 remaining in the third period.

Senior Chloe Ebrahimian lobbed a last-second shot, which dropped in with a half second left to give Menlo a 7-5 advantage entering the fourth quarter.

Six players scored for the Knights, led by juniors Parker Callender's hat trick and Donato, who scored twice. Junior Gillian Bressie had five blocks and assisted on a goal.

Donato had two assists and Callender added one. Sophomore Meri Klingelhofer posted a goal and an assist.

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