The Menlo School girls' volleyball team will be making its sixth trip to the state finals, though just its second in the rally-scoring era.
The last trip, in 2013, current senior Mia Vandermeer watched older sister Lida lose in four sets to Francis Parker. Read the story here.
Vandermeer made sure the Knights got another chance this year, recording 10 kills and being part of an astonishing 12 blocks in Menlo's 25-9, 25-14, 28-26 victory over Monte Vista Christian in the NorCal Division IV final Saturday in front of a full house at Menlo.
"This is a dream come true for my last few times playing volleyball," Vandermeer said. "We're not done. It's time to push and give it our all."
Menlo plays Point Loma of San Diego Saturday at 11 a.m. at Santiago Valley College in Orange. The Knights needed to win several big matches to get this far.
"We're going to appreciate it as much as we can,” Menlo sophomore Selina Xu said. “Give it all we got because no matter what the outcome is, knowing that we put in everything... that's the main goal."
The Knights reached the state championship in four consecutive years between 1999-2002, dropping matches to Notre Dame Academy and three times to Marymount.
Point Loma, the No. 2 seed from the south, is making its first trip to the state finals.
Monte Vista Christian beat Sacred Heart Prep to win the CCS title and also to reach the NorCal final. First-year coach Marco Paglialunga didn't know much about the Mustangs on Tuesday night but put in the time to learn as much as possible.
“We saw some film, and saw some of the offense (Saturday) that we had seen and practiced," Vandermeer said. "We really planned our defense out and I think it showed. We just came out with everything we had. It comes down to finishing strong.”
Menlo opened a 12-1 lead in the first set, building confidence and attacking the right spots. Vandermeer recorded three of her kills during the early run.
"I'm really proud of our team," Xu said. "It was a complete team effort.”
Xu also had 10 kills, then added 15 assists while fellow sophomore Grace King had eight. Junior Kristin Sellers posted a team-high 20 assists. Senior libero Jessica Houghton had 18 digs and sophomore Sianna Houghton added 12.
"I feel like a lot of the credit goes to our coach, " Xu said about Paglialunga. "Our seniors helped us a lot to give us confidence in knowing we can do this."
Menlo pulled away in the second set on a Vandermeer block, Ashley Dreyer-Dea Dressel block and a Grace Enright ace for an 11-4 lead. The Knights maintained a comfortable margin the rest of the way.
"They did tremendous, really fantastic," Paglialunga said. "They went beyond expectations. They really played as a team."
The Mustangs woke up in the third set, jumping to a 6-3 lead. Dreyer and Vandermeer put up a pair of blocks and Riley Holland added an ace to rally Menlo to a 10-7 edge.
The Mustangs kept it close and drew within 20-19. The teams tied at 24 and 26. With Holland serving, Dreyer delivered a kill which went off the hands of a Monte Vista Christian play for the winner.