Four local girls' volleyball teams took the floor on Tuesday in the opening round of the CIF Northern California playoffs. Only three of those squads, however, will be playing in the semifinals on Saturday -- joined by Palo Alto, which had a first-round bye.
Menlo-Atherton, Sacred Heart Prep and Priory all advanced while Castilleja did not.
Menlo-Atherton improved upon last season's first-round exit in the playoffs by holding off No. 6 seed St. Mary's of Stockton (27-10) in a 25-22, 21-25, 25-15, 20-25, 15-9 opening-round Division I marathon on Tuesday night in Atherton.
Versatile junior Ali Spindt led the Bears with 18 kills and 17 digs. Sophomore Pauli King contributed 12 kills and nine digs while senior Sarah Collins had 37 assists, 13 digs and three aces in her final home match.
The No. 3-seeded Bears (30-6) next will visit No. 2 seed St. Francis-Sacramento (38-5) in the semifinals on Saturday at 7 p.m. The winner will advance to the NorCal finals on Tuesday, possibly at No. 1 seed Palo Alto.
The Vikings (33-3) will host No. 4 San Ramon Valley (35-8) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The time was switched from 7 p.m., so not to conflict with Paly's CCS Open Division football semifinal against St. Francis at San Jose City College at that time.
While Menlo-Atherton hosted its opener, both Sacred Heart Prep and Priory had to play on the road and came up with successful efforts.
Sacred Heart Prep took its first step toward defending its CIF NorCal Division IV title by sweeping host Willows, 25-15, 25-11, 25-15 on Tuesday night near Chico. Senior Sarah Daschbach led the Gators with 13 kills and three aces while junior Ellie Shannon and senior Jesse Ebner each added six kills apiece.
The No. 5-seeded Gators (24-7) will remain on the road for Saturday's semifinals, taking on No. 1 Union Mine (30-5) in El Dorado County. The winner will play the Marin Catholic-Soquel winner for the NorCal championship on Tuesday. Sacred Heart would be on the road against either team.
Just two days after suffering a defeat in the Central Coast Section Division V finals, Priory bounced back in a big way and kept its season alive with a 14-25, 25-17, 25-14, 25-23 victory over No. 4 Ripon Christian (27-11) in a Division V opening-round match in the Central Valley near Manteca.
None of the Panthers had played in a NorCal match before and thus the score of the first match. Junior Brianna Willhite sparked Priory in the second set and the Panthers just rolled after that. Sophomore outside hitter Marine Hall-Poirier had 10 kills, 11 digs and two aces to lead Priory with junior Clara Johnson adding 11 digs, eight kills and three aces.
The No. 4-seeded Panthers (26-5) next will visit No. 1 Branson (37-1) in the semifinals on Saturday in Ross. The winner will play in the NorCal finals on Tuesday, with a berth in the state title match at stake.
Coming off arguably its biggest win of the season in the Central Coast Section title match, Castilleja suffered perhaps its toughest loss in a 25-21, 25-23, 25-18 setback to No. 6 San Francisco University in the opening round of the Division V playoffs on Tuesday in Palo Alto. The No. 3 Gators finished their season 20-15.
Serving errors plagued the Gators in the first set and 15 straight points in the second set doomed Castilleja before University went on a 6-1 run to close out the match in the final set. Senior Hannah Boland had 10 kills in her final match with junior Lucy Tashman contributing seven. Seniors Lindsey Wang, Camille Stroe and Zara Saraon also suited up for the final time. The Gators went 82-59 during the past four years, which included a state title in the senior's first season in 2008.