Sports

Menlo-Atherton girls shrug off slow volleyball start

 

The Menlo-Atherton girls volleyball team really wasn’t all that competitive Tuesday in a 25-15, 25-14, 25-18 loss at Valley Christian.

But that is not a cause for concern. The team has its eyes set on the future with the expectation that the lessons learned now will pay off down the line.

"As a coach you always want to be as competitive as possible," first-year coach Jairo Sierra said. "But the team is acclimating to the new coach. It’s a young team. The good thing is I get to grow with the team for years to come."

The Bears are off to a 0-3 start with 3-0 losses to St. Francis, Menlo School and Valley Christian, but that’s hardly cause for alarm.

Last year, against a similarly strong early-season schedule, they started 1-4, but went on to finish 30-6. They won their fourth Central Coast Section championship in the last five years and advanced to the state Division I final.

The current team might be younger and less experienced -- traits that were apparent at times against a veteran Valley Christian team -- but goals haven’t been lowered much at all.

“We will be the bomb,’’ senior captain Lauren Heller said.

Valley Christian (6-2), coached by former M-A coach Ron Whitmill, led throughout the first two sets. The Bears put up more of a battle in the third set, jumping out in front early.

Once Valley went back ahead M-A drew even at 14-14 on a kill by Alicia Letvin and at 17-17 on a kill by freshman Emma Spindt. But then the Warriors went on an 8-1 run to close it out.

Letvin led M-A with seven kills, Heller had six. Nicole Kang had 14 digs and Mariah Grover had a team-high 21 assists.

Despite the remarkable run of success the M-A team has enjoyed in recent years, Sierra becomes the team’s fourth head coach in the last six years. Sierra has been around just a short time but there’s no question that he’s well-liked. Parents and players joined in singing Happy Birthday to him after the game, He turned 31 Tuesday.

“The parents and administration has been very welcoming to me,’’ Sierra said. “And these players, their attitude has been great. If I tell them to run into a wall they don’t ask me why, they ask me how fast.’’

In other nonleague action, Castilleja dropped a 25-17, 25-18, 28-26 match to host Wilcox. Lexi Stull and Bella Vandenberg combined for 12 kills while Suzzy Wang recorded 10 digs.

The Gators (1-5) host KIPP San Jose at 5:45 p.m. Thursday.

Menlo downed visiting Aragon 26-24, 25-16, 25-17 as Ashley Dreyer recorded 15 kills and Grace King added 10.

Kristin Sellers and Selina Xu combined for 40 assists while Caroline Bradley and Grace Enright combined for 26 digs.

The Knights (6-2) visit Palo Alto for a 6:30 p.m. match Thursday. Aragon hosts Sacred Heart Prep (8-2) at 6:15 p.m. Thursday.

SH Prep swept host Woodside, 27-25, 25-19, 25-17, on Tuesday night.

Cate Desler led the way with 21 kills, Ally Polverari added 11 kills and Elena Radeff and Alexa Bartlett combined for another 15 kills. Caroline Caruso had 10 digs while Haley Martella and Katie Quinlan shared 39 assists.

For the Wildcats (4-5), sophomore Elena Campbell recorded 14 kills on a .438 hitting percentage. Senior Nina Pagano added nine kills on .643 hitting. Molly Buddie and Katia Kishinsky combined for 35 assists and nine digs.

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