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Palo Alto, SHP and M-A head into the playoffs

 

By Keith Peters

Palo Alto Online Sports

The Palo Alto girls' volleyball team heads into the Northern California playoffs beginning Tuesday night with a handful of impressive statistics, including a 37-1 record and its first-ever Central Coast Section title safely tucked away.

While the Vikings are also ranked No. 14 in the state in the Freeman rankings on MaxPreps.com and No. 10 among all Division I teams, something is missing.

When the seedings were handed out Sunday for the NorCal playoffs, Palo Alto received only the No. 2 seed while St. Mary's (Stockton) got the No. 1.

"Yes, I thought we had earned the No. 1 seed," said Paly coach Dave Winn. "The NorCal seeding committee deliberated on this for a while and apparently they gave the edge to St. Mary's, since they had swept St. Francis-Sacramento more recently and since they beat (Los) Gatos -- even though we split with Gatos, and lost only in five sets without a starter. I'm sure they didn't consider that.

"So, yeah, if we get past SF-Sac and have to travel to Stockton to play St. Mary's, it's certainly more challenging. But, getting to a state championship is supposed to be hard! We'll do our best."

Interestingly enough, St. Mary's (29-8), the San Joaquin Section champion, is ranked only No. 33 in the state (overall) and No. 23 among Division 1 teams, according to MaxPreps.

Palo Alto will take its No. 2 seed and open NorCal play on Tuesday against No. 7 Lincoln of San Francisco (19-11). A victory will earn the Vikings another home match, on Saturday, against the winner of No. 3 St. Francis-Sacramento (30-7)and No. 6 San Ramon Valley (28-8).

St. Francis-Sacramento is the likely semifinal opponent, which would provide Palo Alto with a revenge factor.

"They are an opponent we know, so I guess that could benefit us," Winn said. "Plus, they knocked us out of the NorCal playoffs last year, so I think my girls will be very motivated to return the favor to them."

While Paly opens at home, Menlo-Atherton (22-8) will take the No. 5 seed and travel to Pleasanton on Tuesday to face No. 4 Foothill (34-4), the North Coast Section champ.

Also opening Tuesday will be Sacred Heart Prep, which received the No. 2 seed after upsetting Notre Dame-Belmont in the CCS Division IV finals on Saturday at Independence High in San Jose. The Gators (21-10) will host No. 7 Sutter (38-10) at 7 p.m.

A victory will earn the Gators a semifinal match at home Saturday against the winner between No. 3 Marin Catholic (28-13) and No. 6 Golden Sierra (21-12). Should SHP win twice, it likely will travel inland to face No. 1 seed Ripon (35-6) on Nov. 30.

Sacred Heart Prep opens NorCal action ranked No. 2 in the state among Division IV teams. Ripon is ranked only No. 8, while Notre Dame-Belmont (24-12) is No. 3 in the state but only No. 5 for the playoffs. Notre Dame and Ripon could meet in the semifinals, which could possibly set up a CCS rematch between SHP and ND-Belmont in the finals.

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