Menlo-Atherton’s girls volleyball season was put on hold Tuesday in a 3-2 loss to Mitty in the Central Coast Section Open Division semifinals at Gunn High.
The No. 6 seed Bears (23-6) had a 2-1 lead before No. 2 Mitty rallied to win the fourth and fifth sets in the 25-19, 21-25, 24-26, 25-17, 15-9 match and advance to Saturday’s final against top seed Sacred Heart Cathedral, a 3-2 winner over St. Francis in Tuesday’s first semifinal.
“It was really tough, especially when you’ve got momentum,’’ M-A coach Jairo Sierra said. “They’re a really good serving team and you’ve got problems when you start having issues about whether or not you can get to a ball. But I’m really proud of my girls. They were resilient and they forced Mitty to have to really show up to win.’’
Senior Natalie Grover had a big game for the Bears, much as she has all season, leading the team in both kills, with 21, and in digs with 17.
“She was a baller tonight,’’ Sierra said.
Rachel Park led the team with 25 assists and Mariah Grover had 20.. M-A had 13 aces led by Marit Hoyem with four.
But the Bears were fighting an uphill battle against Mitty, which has won 14 state championships.
Sierra has now completed his third year coaching at M-A after moving to the area from Kentucky and feels like he’s come to an understanding of the local volleyball culture.
“There’s a big gap between the public school setting and the private school setting,’’ he said. “It’s a lottery draw for a public school. You just hope to get some quality athletes.’’
There were six private schools in the CCS Open Division bracket and two public schools, M-A and Palo Alto.
“I’ve just started getting into the grass roots of the area,’’ Sierra said. “All summer I put on open gyms and clinics for the underprivileged and underserved community in order to start filling the gaps between public schools and private schools, A whole new era is beginning. I think I’ve started building a good rapport in the area.’’
He hopes to continue the progress the program has made over his first three years.
“Last year I got a taste of the Open and lost to St. Ignatius in five sets in the first round,’’ Sierra said. “This year we lost to Mitty in five sets in the semifinals.’’
So there’s already an obvious goal in place for next season -- try to take it one step further in the Open Division.
The Bears will continue their season in the NorCals, which get underway Tuesday.