Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - June 24, 2011

It was a parade of champions

Palo Alto's two state titles, Pinewood girls' hoop crown topped 2010-11

by Keith Peters

The parade through downtown Palo Alto in January pretty much said it all about the 2010-11 high school sports season. It was as unique as the school year. It was historic, as were the performances of the athletes.

And, it was a one-of-kind (perhaps once-in-a-lifetime) event that mirrored athletic achievement never before seen in these parts.

For the first time in school history, which began when the Vikings played their first football game in 1897, Palo Alto High won two state championships in the same year. Perhaps even more impressive, the historic feats came just two weeks apart in December.

Add to that a second straight CIF Division V state championship won by the Pinewood girls' basketball team in March, and you have a Triple Crown of triumphs in one year that most likely will never be duplicated.

The championships didn't stop there. Menlo School won its second straight CCS Division III baseball title in May and Palo Alto captured its first-ever CCS Division I crown — the program's first section baseball title since 1927.

Menlo School also won a record-breaking 10th CCS title in tennis and capped a remarkable 28-1 season with its eighth NorCal crown. Sacred Heart Prep, meanwhile, won its first-ever CCS football title and a handful of local water polo teams captured section crowns.

Palo Alto junior swimmer Jasmine Tosky, meanwhile, put the program (and herself) on the national map by setting a national public school record in the 100-yard butterfly in the prelims of the CCS Championships.

It also was a great year for coaches as Paly football coach Earl Hansen, Paly volleyball coach Dave Winn and Menlo baseball coach Craig Schoof all were named state coach of the year by either ESPN Rise Cal-Hi Sports or MaxPreps. Schoof's honor came for Division III.

There were other great individual and team efforts during the school year, but the state titles by Palo Alto topped them all. That's why the parade made sense and why some 10,000 spectators or more turned out to celebrate.

Palo Alto made history in volleyball when the Vikings captured the CIF Division I state championship with a five-set win over heavily favored Long Beach Poly at San Jose State. Less than two weeks later, on Dec. 17, the Vikings shocked the prep football world by upending nationally No. 4-ranked Centennial-Corona, 15-13, for the Division I state crown.

Palo Alto became only one of two schools in California to win two state titles during the fall, and nearly had two perfect seasons to brag about as the Vikings' volleyball team finished 41-1 while the gridiron guys went 14-0. Both marks are school records for single-season victories.

For the first time in school history, both Paly teams finished the year ranked among the top 20 in the nation. Volleyball finished No. 10, according to prepvolleyball.com while football checked in at No. 13 on MaxPreps.com.

The Vikings, in both sports, achieved success through hard work and teamwork and under the guidance of their knowledgeable coaches.

The Vikings' volleyball team defeated a Long Beach Poly team that was ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation in one poll and was a legitimate No. 7 according to prepvolleyball.com. Paly was nowhere close to either ranking and thus carried the underdog role into the finals.

Despite having only two seniors on its roster — Megan Coleman and Trina Ohms — Palo Alto battled the nation's best on even terms and emerged with a well-deserved state crown after junior Maddie Kuppe served back-to-back aces to clinch.

In May, the Paly volleyball team was named the MaxPreps National Female Team of the Year while beating out more than 22,000 other squads nationwide.

The Paly football team also took on one of the nation's finest, a team that became the most prolific offensive squad in state history with more than 8,000 total yards gained. Centennial-Corona, however, had to settle for a 14-1 record after the Vikings' came up with a brilliant defensive effort while holding the Huskies to their lowest point total of the season and 41 points under their season average.

To qualify for its second appearance in the state finals (Paly also made it in 2006), the Vikings swept aside WCAL powerhouses Mitty, Bellarmine and Valley Christian to win the CCS Open Division crown.

Winning state titles wasn't exclusive to the Vikings, however. The Pinewood girls' basketball team claimed the Division V state title in March for a second consecutive year. While the Panthers had won four previous state crowns, this one was special for head coach Doc Scheppler, who had lost his father — his team's biggest booster — to cancer earlier in the season.

Led by seniors Hailie Eackles and Miranda Seto, the Panthers capped a sensational season with a 67-56 win over St. Bernard of Playa del Rey. Eackles had 31 points and nine rebounds while Seto added 21 points as Pinewood finished 28-5.

The Panthers finished the year with 346 three-pointers, surpassing their own state record of 338 first accomplished in 2003. Pinewood also became the first Division V girls' team in state history to win five state crowns and the first Division V team to win back-to-back titles twice (2005-06 and 2010-11).

While it just missed out on winning a state title, the Sacred Heart Prep girls' volleyball team had a stellar season that included winning the NorCal Division IV title and advancing to the state finals for the first time since 1998 before losing to nationally ranked La Jolla Country Day (33-3) in three sets to finish 24-11.

The Gators had lost eight seniors to graduation and had only seniors — Hanna Elmore and Vivian Wu — on the court in 2010. Despite his youthful team, coach Damien Hardy made it all work.

In a year filled with highlights, here are a few of the best:

In the fall . . .

* A total of 29 local runners qualified for the CIF State Meet in cross country in 2010, with Priory junior Kat Gregory leading the way by successfully defending her Division V title at the CCS championships. She helped the Priory girls qualify as a team while the Priory boys also made it to state, marking the first time in school history that both teams qualified.

* Castilleja finished second at the CCS girls' golf championships and qualified for the NorCal tournament for the first time in school history. Senior Brenna Nelsen led the Gators during their successful season.

* The Menlo boys' water polo team returned to the top by winning the CCS Division II crown with an impressive 11-5 victory over three-time defending champ Sacred Heart Prep.

* The Sacred Heart Prep girls, meanwhile, captured their fourth straight section title with 12-4 victory over Castilleja in the Division II finals to finish 26-3 — none of the losses coming against CCS teams. The Menlo-Atherton girls also picked up a CCS crown, edging St. Francis, 6-5, in the Division I finale.

* The Sacred Heart Prep football team captured its first ever by defeating No. 1 seed Carmel, 39-32, in the Division IV finals after rallying from a 32-11 deficit in the third quarter. The Gators finished 11-2 while giving Pete Lavorato the highlight of his prep coaching career.

In the winter . . .

* The Palo Alto wrestling team made its mark by winning its first league meet championship in 25 years by capturing the SCVAL finals. Gunn senior Stefan Weidemann won his first CCS individual title with a 5-2 decision at 152 pounds.

* The Palo Alto girls' basketball team won its first-ever SCVAL De Anza Division title and went on to claim the first CCS crown in school history by beating rival Gunn in the Division I finale, 55-44. The Vikings finished 22-5, losing in the NorCal quarterfinals.

* The Sacred Heart Prep boys successfully defended their CCS Division IV championship with a 61-51 win over Santa Cruz while the Pinewood boys captured their first section crown in 15 years by taking the Division V title with a 71-66 win over Mid-Peninsula.

* The Sacred Heart Prep boys' soccer team went 17-1-1 during the regular season while winning the WBAL title, outscoring opponents by 90-11. The Gators, however, couldn't keep the magic going during the CCS playoffs. The SHP girls won their third straight WBAL title while losing only once in league play in three years.

In the spring . . .

* The Menlo boys' lacrosse team captured the SCVAL championships while the Menlo girls successfully defended their West Bay Athletic League crown.

* The Palo Alto boys and girls swept their SCVAL De Anza Division league meet titles with plenty of impressive efforts from young swimmers, while the Sacred Heart Prep boys and girls did the same in the WBAL finals.

* Palo Alto's first CCS baseball title came in a 5-4 victory over San Benito as the Vikings finished 28-9, the second-most victories in school history. The Vikings wound up ranked No. 1 in the state Division II poll and No. 14 overall by Cal-Hi Sports.

* Menlo School won its fifth section title following a 4-0 triumph over Santa Cruz. The Knights wound up ranked No. 2 in the state Division IV listing by Cal-Hi Sports.

* Tosky's national record in the 100 fly was 51.92, set in the prelims. It broke a mark previously held by former Stanford Olympian Misty Hyman. Tosky won the 100 fly final and added the 200 free crown to remain unbeaten in CCS meets. The Vikings, however, lost a chance to win a CCS title after a relay disqualification to open the meet.

* SHP junior Tom Kremer and freshman Ally Howe each won two CCS individual titles while each broke a section record.

* The highlight of the track and field season came when Palo Alto broke a school record in the boys' 400 relay, clocking 42.07 for third place at the CCS Championships. That eclipsed a 31-year-old record. All four relay members started the season on the Paly football team with three of them — Maurice Williams, Morris Gates-Mouton and Miles Anderson — earning state championship rings.

Speaking of football, there are only seven weeks before fall practice begins. Palo Alto has a state title to defend and Sacred Heart Prep has a second straight CCS crown to go after.

Water polo teams will be back playing for section crowns and runners will chase after honors in cross country.

The 2011-12 high school season, however, has some very big shoes to fill while following in the footsteps of this past history-making school year.

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