Palo Alto senior middle blocker Amelia Gibbs loves the new additions to the Vikings girls' volleyball team this season and if Thursday's dramatic 25-21, 25-14, 19-25, 24-26, 15-13 home victory over perennial powerhouse Mitty is any indication, the feeling is mutual.
"Like coach told us, if we could play 15 on 15, we'd win against anybody," Gibbs said. "We're all so skilled."
Kylie Mies sets for Palo Alto. Photo by Jenny Hickey.
When he arrived on campus, he saw a talented group of players and decided they needed to be put to the test. So he scheduled three West Catholic Athletic League teams and entered the Branson Elite Eight Tournament, where the Vikings (2-0) meet Monte Vista Danville, Campolindo and Marin Catholic, a gauntlet of top tier teams, on Saturday in pool play.
Paly will see either Mitty, O'Dowd, Branson or St. Mary's Stockton in a placement match later Saturday. Mitty and O'Dowd met for the Northern California Division II title last year.
As of Thursday, Palo Alto's next five scheduled opponents are a combined 18-1 on the season. Spikefest titlist St. Francis visits Paly on Tuesday and the Vikings open SCVAL play next Thursday against currently undefeated Mountain View.
"We're still putting it together and they keep getting better," Crader said. "Mitty put a lot of pressure on us."
The Monarchs (4-2) are known for being in the right place and for being technically sound. They don't usually beat themselves and in the final three sets, served well enough to put the Vikings on their heels.
And still Palo Alto did not crumble. In the fourth set, Mitty scored eight straight points and 10 of 11 to forge a 15-12 advantage. The Vikings rallied to take a 19-18 lead, fell behind 23-21 and tied it at 24 before the Monarchs prevailed.
"Because it's so early in the season, we're still figuring things out," Gibbs said. "With the new players still fitting in, we're going to get better."
The fifth set featured four lead changes and eight ties. An Amelia Vugrincic kill gave the Vikings a 12-10 edge but a couple of unforced errors allowed Mitty to inch ahead ,13-12. The final three points: A Gibbs kill, a service ace from sophomore Hillary Cheung and a Gibbs block.
"It was an exciting win for us," Gibbs said. "We lost to Mitty last year and were waiting to play them again. This tells us we're a strong team. Each year we've gone a little further in the state tournament. Maybe this is our year."
Gibbs finished with 19 kills on .545 hitting. Vugrincic added 14 kills. Junior Sophia Krugler finished with 17 kills and Kimi Lillios added 11 digs and three aces.
Cheung served six aces overall and shared setting duties with junior Kylie Mies. Senior Libero Rebekah Limb added a pair of aces. Junior Trisha Razdan, one of eight different players to record at least one kill, combined with Mies, Grace Thayer and Olivia Harrison for 12 kills.
In other nonleague matches, Menlo School earned a 25-20, 15-25, 25-15, 25-17 victory over visiting Menlo-Atherton as Roxy Karrer recorded 17 kills.
Senior Abby Holleran had 14 digs and four aces for the Oaks (5-2). Sophomore Hanna Hoffman had six kills, 15 assists and three aces. Freshman Havannah Hoeft had 16 assists, six digs, and hit .667. Sophomore Zoe Gregory posted 11 assists.
M-A (1-1) and the Knights are both entered in Saturday's Chris Chandler Invitational, hosted by Menlo School.
Woodside also won in five sets, recovered from a 2-0 deficit in sets to beat visiting San Benito 23-25, 19-25, 25-13, 25-20, 15-12 as Elena Campbell recorded 19 kills, hit .348, had 18 digs and served four aces.
Sarah Strus added 15 kills and Helena Granger had 10 kills on .643 hitting for the Wildcats (4-4), who host Aragon in a PAL Bay Division opener at 6:15 p.m. next Thursday. Molly Buddie added 37 assists and Krista Opp had 22 digs.
Elena Radeff recorded 19 kills and 17 digs but Sacred Heart Prep fell to host Aragon 25-16, 20-25, 25-18, 25-20 in a nonleague match Thursday.
Millie Muir had 20 assists and 14 digs and Sara Lin added 17 assists and 12 digs. Leia Bonifacio added 12 digs and Sofie Wheeler had eight kills. The Gators (4-4) open West Bay Athletic League play on Tuesday with a 6:30 p.m. match at Notre Dame San Jose.
Eastside Prep (0-2) dropped a 25-3, 25-13, 25-11 nonleague decision to host Nueva School in San Mateo. The Panthers host James Lick (0-2) at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Senior Isabella Yu earned medalist honors with a score of 41, leading a balanced round in Gunn's 217-241 victory over Monta Vista in a nonleague contest at Baylands Golf Links on Thursday.
Senior Rachel Hollett followed with a 42, Cynthia Dharmawan had a 43, sophomore Athina Chen came in with a 45 and sophomore Catherine Chu scored a 46. Sophomore Alanna Lee, the Titans top golfer in a match against Valley Christian earlier in the week, fired a 49.
Gunn opens SCVAL play with a match at Saratoga on Monday, September 16.