The Score: Palo Alto 3, M-A 0.
The Star: It's hard not to notice Palo Alto High middle blocker Melanie Wade. During Saturday's Central Coast Section Division I championship, the 6-foot-5 junior picked up six aces while leading the Vikings to their first section title in girls volleyball.
The Turning Point: A timeout called by Palo Alto coach Dave Winn early in the second set allowed the Vikings to adjust and refocus. The result? The Vikings rallied from a 5-1 deficit to go ahead 8-7, a lead that they would not surrender the rest of the night in sweeping Menlo-Atherton.
The Quote: "It feels amazing. This was our big goal all season. It feels great to have accomplished it, to be the first ones in school history to do this. It feels great. We have a special team." -- Palo Alto junior middle blocker Melanie Wade, on the feeling of securing the program's inaugural CCS championship.
What's Next? Palo Alto and M-A await today's seeding meeting for the Northern California playoffs. Both teams automatically advanced with their CCS semifinal wins on Thursday.
The Bottom Line: Saturday's complete performance by all members of the Palo Alto squad shows this team could be a serious contender to make the state title match, a goal the Vikings had in mind from the start of the season.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it's a good thing the Palo Alto High girls volleyball team is hungry. After clinching the Central Coast Section Division I title on Saturday -- the school's first section championship in girls volleyball -- it's not turkey the Vikings are hungry for; it's more championships.
"At the beginning of the season we set trophy goals," said Palo Alto captain Trina Ohms. "Win league, win CCS and hopefully make it to state. This is just another thing that happened this year. It's been an amazing year."
Top-seeded Palo Alto decisively swept No. 3 seed Menlo Atherton in Saturday's title tilt at Independence High in San Jose, prevailing 25-17, 25-19 and 25-14.
"It was a team effort," said Ohms. "I really felt like nobody carried the team on their shoulders. Everyone contributed and gave everything they could."
Palo Alto (37-1) and M-A (22-8) had much in common entering Saturday's contest. Neither school had the experience of raising a CCS championship banner for girls volleyball in their home gym, but both came bitterly close the last season.
Palo Alto, playing in Division II in 2009, fell to the Mitty juggernaut 3-0. M-A lost the Division I crown last year at the hands of a Salinas sweep.
"Last year was a bit of a disappointment," said Palo Alto middle blocker Melanie Wade. "The chances of beating Mitty were pretty slim. This year we came out and played really well and had a good game."
Palo Alto, whose only loss this season was to Los Gatos (3-2 on Oct. 21), prepared to rectify the previous season's shortcomings. Behind Wade, who starred in Thursday's tough semifinal win over No. 5 seed Carlmont and then picked up six aces on Saturday, the Vikings extend their win streak to 11 matches.
Palo Alto is more excited about the next three matches than their last 11 though. Three more victories, including one to start the Northern California playoffs on Tuesday night, will put Palo Alto in the state title match. Not bad for a team that just won its first section championship.
"They're hungry to make it to state," Palo Alto coach Dave Winn said of his team not being content with only a CCS title. "They just made school history, but they know there's more work to do. They realize they have a special opportunity. There's still more to do. We can't cakewalk in."
Though a 37-1 record suggests a cakewalk of a season, Palo Alto has faced rough patches, including dealing with various injuries.
"I think of our team this season like the old World War II movies," said Winn. "We're an airplane that's been shot up and we're just trying to land. We were just trying to get out of it alive with all the injuries and lineup changes."
One key injury sidelined outside hitter Maddie Kuppe for a portion of the season. The junior showed no signs of lingering effects from the leg injury that kept her on the bench. Kuppe led the Vikings with 11 kills.
M-A senior Regina Mullen led the Bear attack with eight kills, while junior Hannah Branning nabbed 10 digs.
M-A holds NorCal aspirations of its own, as the CCS title loss does not mean the season is over for the Bears. M-A may even get a rematch with Palo Alto if the Bears win their next three and Palo Alto wins two.
Following today's seeding meeting, the teams will know the definite plans for the NorCal playoffs. Palo Alto believes it will have home court, an improvement over last season's experience.
"It's great having a home game," said Winn. "It's fun not having to travel to Chico. But there are some good teams in the NorCals."
Palo Alto d. Menlo Atherton 25-17, 25-19, 25-14
Kills Leaders: M-A: Mullen 8. PA: Kuppe 11.
Records: M-A-22-8. Palo Alto-37-1.