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 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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