By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
The Menlo-Atherton girls' volleyball team accomplished a lot last year and return most of the same players who helped the Bears reach their first Central Coast Section title game ever.
The Bears have won more games than they've lost this year, and there's still room for improvement. This time it was a need to answer thier first PAL Bay Division setback earlier in the week.
M-A went to work Thursday and responded with a hard-nosed 26-24, 25-19, 25-22 victory over host Aragon that puts the league title back in play.
"We knew we had a tough week coming into these matches," M-A's second year coach Jennifer Wilson said. "We did not match up well with Aragon last year and they play great defense. It was a struggle at first again and our receiving game crumbled."
As it turned out, it was a temporary problem. The Bears (3-1, 11-5) worked on finishing strong during Wednesday's practice and it took hold in the second set against the Dons.
Aragon drew within 18-17 but thanks in large part to senior outside hitter Regina Mullen and junior middle blocker Seini Moimoi, the Bears not only maintained their lead but drew away from the Dons.
The scenario was repeated in the third set when Aragon was within 19-18. M-A clamped down and finished strong.
"We had a lot of tough calls against Burlingame," said Mullen, who recorded a team-high 14 kills in two sets. "So we worked on finishing and I think this was a good first step. Our goal is to win the league title. Aragon is always tough for us. This might be the first time we beat them in three sets."
Moimoi, who finished with a remarkable 15 blocks, seemed to thrive on the in-your-face blocks she made. During one stretch, her blocks weren't going straight down; they were bouncing off body parts. It was an emphatic statement and sparked the likes of Mullen and senior Diane Seeley (six kills, three blocks).
Even sophomore Katelyn Doherty seemed to have a little extra muscle on her serves, which led to a run of points that put M-A ahead to stay in the second set. Junior libero Hannah Branning had 11 digs.
"We got more loose and comfortable," Wilson said. "We played as opposed to avoiding making mistakes. We were able to recover and we keep the lead."
The Bears play at Mills on Tuesday with another chance to separate themselves from the rest of the league. They remain a game behind league-leading Burlingame.