Menlo School made history of a different kind Wednesday night, going on the road and beating St. Ignatius 25-22, 25-18, 23-25, 25-19 in the semifinals of the Central Coast Section Open Division girls volleyball playoffs.
Menlo (28-5) became the first school outside the West Catholic Athletic League to reach the championship match of the Open Division, which dates to 2016.
Second-seeded St. Ignatius (25-8), which shared the WCAL title with Mitty, entered the semifinals having won 17 of its past 19 matches, with the only two losses to Mitty.
Third-seeded Menlo extended its winning streak to 18 matches and improved to 4-3 against WCAL schools. The Knights lost to Mitty twice and to St. Francis.
Top-seeded Mitty (32-7) beat No. 4 St. Francis 25-20, 16-25, 22-25, 25-20, 15-11 in the other semifinal.
Mitty and Menlo play for the Open Division championship at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Gunn High.
St. Francis (18-11) and St. Ignatius will continue in the Northern California championships that get underway Tuesday at home sites.
Senior Simone Adam led Menlo with 13 kills and 11 digs against the Wildcats, against whom Menlo owns a three-match winning streak dating to its last loss to SI on Sept. 5, 2009.
"I think that our preseason schedule has really paid dividends this past week, falling behind 2-0 to SHP and dropping that third set tonight," Menlo coach Tony Holland said. "The way we responded to each situation is a direct reflection of what we learned about ourselves as a team."
SI, which shared to WCAL title with Mitty, overcame a 21-17 deficit to win Wednesday's third set. Menlo did not allow that to carry over into the fourth set.
"We knew they were aggressive offensively so we talked about mirroring that aggression with our defense," Holland said. "We thought we could win the serve-and-pass game, and I am happy with the way we executed that part of the game plan."
With its multi-dimensional attack, Menlo received contributions from top to bottom in remaining unbeaten over the past seven weeks.
Hanna Hoffman distributed 28 assists, had 11 digs and three aces. Fellow senior Sharon Nejad earned 12 kills and sophomore Cleo Hardin added 10.
Defensively, seniors Hallie MacDonald (17 digs and three aces) and Zoe Gregory (23 assists and 12 digs) paved the way to victory.
The fourth set was anything but easy for Menlo. The Knights led early but the Wildcats rebounded to tie it at 14-all.
The match was tied on four more occasions before Nejad went cross-court for a kill and, with MacDonald serving, Hoffman punched home a pair of points and placed a third deep in the left corner for a 22-19 lead.
Nejad put away the match with a tip and a hit.
Menlo jumped out to a lead early in the first set but SI rebounded to tie the set three times before Menlo took the lead for good on a kill from Hardin. Hoffman's tip brought on game point, and an SI error gave Menlo the first set.
Menlo led after the first point in the second set and never looked back, stretching the lead to six on senior Jazi Chen's kill. Nejad tooled a pair of hits off the block for the win.
Against Mitty, USC-bound Maddie Pietsch led St. Francis with 23 kills and three blocks. The Lancers recorded 16 team blocks, a big reason they were able to match Mitty blow-for-blow.
Pietsch and Sammy Franco combined on a block that tied the fifth set at 10-10. A service ace and a devastating back row attack from junior Audrey Liddle put the Monarchs in the driver's seat.
"We played our hearts out," St. Francis co-coach Lake Merchen (with Lynn McHenry) said. "Every time we play (Mitty) it's been a battle. We were taking big swings and not letting up on serves. It was awesome seeing them play that way. When it comes to the fifth set, sometimes it comes down to a little bit of luck."
Havannah Hoeft, who played her freshman year at Menlo, had 43 assists, a team-high four blocks, including a solo block, and a pair of aces for St. Francis. Erin Curtis and Erika Giovanardi each added 11 kills.
"We'll look at film," said Merchen, who led Aptos to the state Division IV title in 2019. "It always comes down to one or two things here and there. We'll go out and keep working."