Prep volleyball: Menlo takes control in the WBAL race


Menlo School plays volleyball the way a swimming pool looks when its a clear, calm night and the water is still. The Knights smoothly move through their system with nary a ripple. It can be a thing of beauty.

In beating visiting Sacred Heart Prep, 25-19, 25-16, 25-14, Thursday night and taking control of the West Bay Athletic League Foothill Division race, Menlo was at the top of its game. The Knights played their 17th game of the season like it was their 33rd game.

Playing their rivals were part of that equation but so were leaning on the fundamentals.

"We have seven players who returned from last year and that helped," Menlo co-captain Kristin Sellers said. "And we've jelled quicker this year. The fact is we're a deep team with a lot of skill and we can spread things among many players."

It's a simple formula: be in the right place at the right time and have an idea of where you're heading next. Menlo (14-3, 3-0) rarely found itself out of position and continually adjusted to the way the Gators were attacking.

"We try to instill an attention to detail," Menlo assistant coach Tony Holland said. "A lot of that comes from watching video. Most of the girls have played together for 10 or 11 years and they can focus on learning and thinking about what can be accomplished this year. We all understand there's still a lot of work ahead of us."

Sacred Heart Prep (16-4, 3-1) remains a solid team despite its loss. The Gators came ready and there wasn't much difference between the teams play in a first set that undulated solid volleyball. The only thing that thwarted SH Prep was its serving errors and that may have been a case of being too hyped.

Everyone in the gymnasium knows that Sacred Heart Prep relies on senior Cate Dessler, a one-woman highlight reel from the outside. Even knowing that doesn't help often. She recorded a game-high 14 kills, getting superb feeds from senior setter Haley Martella.

Menlo's game plan for Desler? Sellers said they called an audible.

"Stop trying to block her and try to get a finger on the ball to keep it alive a little longer," Sellers said.

Gators sophomore Elena Radeff, who had seven kills and three blocks, took some heat off Desler with several strong attacks. Sacred Heart Prep plays impressive defense too, which resulted in many long rallies.

The Gators served better after the first set but the Knights were able to wear them down by keeping rallies alive with mind-numbing consistency.

Menlo junior Selina Xu shared setting duties with Sellers as they combined for 34. Xu also led the Knights with 12 kills. Sianna Houghton and Grace King combined for another 14 kills.

Houghton added 19 digs, Sellers had 10 and libero Riley Holland added nine. SHP libero Caroline Caruso recorded 12 digs.

Sacred Heart Prep has an important match coming up next Thursday with defending WBAL Foothill champion Notre Dame-Belmont. The Tigers have lost to Menlo but you cannot count them out.

Menlo hosts Notre Dame-San Jose on Tuesday at 5:45 p.m.

In the WBAL Skyline Division, host Priory lost to Crystal Springs Uplands in three sets and host Pinewood fell to The King's Academy, 25-23, 25-17, 25-7.

Palo Alto remained undefeated in the SCVAL De Anza Division, beating visiting Saratoga, 25-20, 25-18, 25-15. Chelsea Fan had nine kills and eight digs while Susanna Limb had eight digs and four aces.

The Vikings (11-3, 4-0) play at Los Gatos on Tuesday.

Gunn (6-10, 3-1) drooped a three-set decision to Cupertino in SCVAL El Camino Division play.

In the PAL Bay Division, Woodside (10-8, 2-2) dropped a 25-22, 25-9, 25-20 decision to host Carlmont (21-1, 4-0) on Thursday. Elena Campbell recorded nine kills, 12 digs and hit .321 and Madeline Mendes added 11 digs.

Natalie Grover, Alicia Levtin and Emma Spindt each recorded eight kills for the Bears (4-8, 2-2), who host San Mateo at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday.

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