This has been a special week for Palo Alto volleyball coach Dave Winn. On Wednesday, two of his players (seniors Melanie Wade and Kimmy Whitson) were named to the sixth annual Under Armour Girls High School All-America team. On Thursday, Winn reached a personal milestone that put the Vikings in position to achieve one, as well.
The 6-foot-5 Wade was named to the 24-player first team, one of only two California players selected, while the 6-foot Whitson received honorable mention on the 100-player All-America team that saw players from 32 states and from 92 high schools honored by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
Each of the players on the first team will be invited to play in the Under Armour All-America Volleyball Match & Skills Competition. The event will be held at the Alamodome on Dec. 16 in San Antonio, Texas, in conjunction with the 2011 AVCA annual convention.
On Thursday, Wade and Whitson helped Winn earn his 300th career victory as the top-seeded Vikings advanced to their second straight Central Coast Section Division I championship match with a 25-15, 25-18, 25-20 victory over No. 4 Salinas (22-9) in the section semifinals at Milpitas High.
Wade led the Vikings with 19 kills and fellow senior Maddie Kuppe added 11, along with eight digs. Senior Caroline Martin contributed six kills and Whitson had 38 assists.
The Vikings (32-3) will play for a second straight section crown on Saturday at Independence High in San Jose at 2:30 p.m. Palo Alto can make some program history by winning two straight CCS titles, as last year's crown was the team's first. The Vikings are now 73-4 since the start of the 2010 season, which ended in a CIF Division I state championship.
Palo Alto is listed No. 23 in this week's MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Volleyball Rankings and ranked No. 14 nationally in the Powerade Fab 50 by ESPNHS.
Palo Alto will take on No. 2 Menlo-Atherton (29-5), which swept No. 3 Carlmont (25-10), 25-13, 25-12, 25-20, thus setting up a rematch of last year's CCS title match between the Vikings and Bears.
The Bears reached the CCS Division I title match with a solid effort against its PAL Bay Division rival. It was M-A's third win over the Scots this season, two coming during a 14-0 league finish. Saturday's winner will host a NorCal first-round match on Tuesday at 7 p.m., while the runner-up will have to travel. The NorCal brackets will be announced Sunday.
M-A junior Ali Spindt, the MVP of the PAL Bay Division this season, had 12 kills to put her team into the championship match for a third straight year under head coach Jennifer Wilson. Sophomore Pauli King added eight kills with senior Sarah Collins contributing five.
The Division I matchup between Palo Alto and Menlo-Atherton will be one of three CCS finals on Saturday at Independence High involving local teams.
In Division V, top-seeded Priory advanced to the championship match with a hard-fought 25-22, 20-25, 24-26, 25-22, 15-13 victory over No. 4 seed Anzar (20-11) in a semifinal match Thursday night at Alma Heights Christian in Pacifica. The Panthers (25-4) will play for the section title against No. 2 seed Castilleja at 10:30 a.m.
Junior outside hitter Brianna Willhite led the Panthers with 20 kills and senior setter Alyssa Gutman-Green contributed 54 assists.
This will be Priory's first appearance in the finals since 2004, when the Panthers won their fourth section title. Priory and Castilleja have met once before the finals, that coming in 1999 when the Panthers prevailed.
Castilleja will be seeking its first CCS Division V title since 2006 and its third overall on Saturday. The Gators (19-14) advanced to their first final since 2009 with a 25-17, 25-8, 25-23 victory over No. 3 Mt. Madonna (13-15) in a semifinal on Thursday at Alma Heights Christian in Pacifica.
Senior Hannah Boland led the Gators with 10 kills and four blocks with junior Lucy Tashman adding eight kills and 10 digs. Junior Hannah Hsieh had 22 assists and four aces while freshman Jennifer DiSanto added 22 digs.
Mt. Madonna won CCS Division V titles from 2007-09 with Castilleja finishing second each season.
The top-seeded Sacred Heart Prep girls (23-6), who advanced out of the Division IV semifinals on Wednesday, will play No. 2 Soquel (30-4) in the section finals at 4:30 p.m.