Search the Archive:

November 24, 2004

Back to the table of Contents Page


Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Woodside Priory wins title; Gators come up short Woodside Priory wins title; Gators come up short (November 24, 2004)

by Rick Eymer

Laura Trudelle didn't want to leave the rest of her Woodside Priory girls' volleyball teammates without something else to celebrate.

Castilleja senior Becky Chan knows the Gators have come a long way despite a frustrating experience on Saturday.

Trudelle recorded 20 kills, 10 digs, three blocks and two service aces to lead Woodside Priory to the Central Coast Section Division V championship with a 25-23, 25-22, 28-26 victory over King's Academy at West Valley College in Saratoga.

"She's just the ultimate leader of our team," Panther senior setter Lauren Hecht said of Trudelle. "She pumps us up, keeps us up and is very supportive."

Woodside Priory's first-year coach Rick Riebhoff also expressed his gratitude for Trudelle, who hopes to be playing volleyball somewhere in college at this time next year.

"She's the most amazing leader I've ever coached," Riebhoff said.

Trudelle is the only member of the Panthers team to have even appeared in a CCS contest until this year. She was a freshman starter on the team that won a CCS and a state title in 2001.

Hecht, who had 30 assists and eight digs on Saturday, was the setter for the junior varsity that year. "I wanted to do it some day," Hecht remembers thinking back then. "I was never sure we'd get there."

With Saturday's victory, Woodside Priory (13-12) claimed its fourth CCS title in six years and the first since the state championship team.

The Panthers, seeded No. 2, hosted a first round Northern California match against Portola of the North Section on Tuesday night.

Chan and the Gators lost in the Division IV final, 17-25, 25-19, 25-13, 28-26, to nemesis and defending champ Notre Dame-Salinas, but Castilleja got a second chance in the NorCal tourney, though it had to go on the road to Napa to meet Justin-Siena.

"We were fighting hard in that last game, with more energy and spirit," Chan said. "We're learning from it and hopefully we can execute better."

The Gators were swept by Notre Dame in the finals last year, with Menlo-Atherton grad Tracie Hubbard coaching for the first time.

Woodside Priory's success this season may have started with a letter. When Riebhoff took over during the summer, he sent a letter to the team members.

"The letter said 'Let's put some banners back in our gym,' " Trudelle said. "We missed CCS the last two years but you could feel the energy back on this team. We lost some great seniors the last time we won, but there are players here who are willing to work hard and I knew we'd get back here some time."

The Panthers did get back into the CCS, but just barely. They grabbed the sixth - and final - seed by the thinnest of margins.

"When I went to the seeding meeting I had no idea if we'd get in," Riebhoff said. "We barely got in. This team just came together. They love each other and I can't say enough about them."

You could say Woodside Priory is a family. After all, The Panthers feature three sets of sisters. Sophomore Chrissa Trudelle ("She's going to be taller than me, like, tomorrow," Laura said) recorded the final two kills of the match to secure the first place trophy.

There's also Leila Novotny, a left-hander whose serves gave King's Academy all kinds of trouble, and her sister Kai Novotny, who recorded 10 kills in the match. Alexa Zappas and Katie Zappas also contributed to the victory.

Hecht, Cassey Lingemco and Katie Lampert are also part of the family who helped bring another banner into Priory's tiny gym.

"The idea was that since they had won state, they hadn't been back to the CCS," Riebhoff said of his letter campaign. "We wanted to get back to our winning ways."

Woodside Priory, with its tiny enrollment dwarfed by larger schools in its league, was ultimately rewarded for playing a difficult schedule.

"We played in a tough league but we liked it that way," Hecht said.

Woodside Priory fell behind in all three games before rallying for the sweep. The Panthers were down 7-1 early and 19-16 late in the first game.

In the second game Woodside Priory fell behind 18-15 and 20-18, and faced a 13-8 deficit in the third game.

The Panthers saved two match points before the elder Trudelle recorded two kills to get them into position to win, and the younger Trudelle nailed it down.

Trudelle said she has a few colleges in mind where she'd like to continue her career, among them San Diego, Concordia and Westmont.

"I really want to play," she said.

Wherever she ends up, it'll probably be just like family. She's had the practice with her Panther teammates already.

Chan said something similar about Castilleja (33-5), despite the tearful loss.

"That's the nice thing," she said. "We get along so well. There are no social problems."

The Gators also remained confident they could continue their season beyond Tuesday. Last year Castilleja lost to Justin Siena in the first round, 25-16, 25-20, 23-25, 25-21.

Chan, who had 42 assists against the Spirits and their two college-bound athletes in Randy Goodenough (volleyball at Arizona) and Melissa Pura (softball at Cal Poly), can see tangible evidence of Castilleja's continuing development.

"The win over Menlo (in the semifinals) was big," Chan said. "They last time we played them was in my freshman year and they creamed us. We were hyped up for that one. We want to develop a little rivalry with them. Of course we all had friends on their team so it was a little difficult to play against them."

Menlo School coach Ryan Cooling was at Saturday's match. He accepted Menlo's CCS scholastic award for the team's cumulative 3.7132 GPA.

The foundation for Castilleja's future success is the four returning starters. Juniors Ariel Baxterbeck (15 kills against Notre Dame), Chelsea Ono Horn (10 kills, 12 digs) and Alissa Flesher, to go with freshman Audrey Kuan, gives Hubbard a nucleus of talent.

Speaking of family, the Gators form their own sisterhood with senior Katie Given and sophomore Annie Given. Hubbard also dipped into her own family for an assistant coach, bringing younger sister Atlee - who won a CCS title with Los Altos in 2000 - on board for the school's first assistant coach in years.

"She's my right arm." Tracie Hubbard said. "We can focus on so many more aspects of the game. It's one more pair of eyes, and it means more 1-on-1 time with the players and makes for better practices."

The Gators will lose six seniors, including Hecht, Given, Mia Kumagai, who had 18 digs on Saturday, Ashley D'Armour, who hasn't played because of a broken foot, Lynn Oncel and Maddie Priest.

In addition to the four returning starters and Given, junior Molly Doran and sophomore Katherine Jordan will bring experience.

With the help of Chan's serving, Castilleja took a quick 11-5 lead in the first game en route to the win.

The second game was tied at 9 before the Spirits ran off seven straight points to take control.

The Gators fell behind early in the third game and never recovered.

The fourth game was one for the books. Neither team led by more than three and it was tied on 16 occasions. Castilleja saved three match points before finally losing.

"It's a little frustrating but they are a good team," Chan said. "We have been getting better and better coaches and we all play on club teams. We're more athletic and this team can make it back to the title match again next year. There's a lot of potential."

E-mail a friend a link to this story.

Copyright © 2004 Embarcadero Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Reproduction or online links to anything other than the home page
without permission is strictly prohibited.