Chelsea Fan puts the Alto -- or more precisely the Altitude -- in Palo Alto volleyball.
Fan was flying all over the court Saturday and helped the No. 6 seed Vikings take No. 3 St. Francis to five sets before losing 25-12, 18-25, 25-19, 23-25, 15-6 in the opening round of the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs.
In another Open Division quarterfinal, fifth-seeded Menlo (29-4) knocked off host No. 4 Sacred Heart Cathedral, 25-16, 23-25, 25-23, 25-16, and will play top-seeded Mitty at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Palo Alto.
In Division IV, top-seeded Sacred Heart Prep defeated visiting Mercy-Burlingame, 25-13, 25-11, 23-25, 25-18, and will meet fourth-seeded King City at Scotts Valley High on Tuesday at a time to be determined.
In Division II, No. 4 Woodside beat No. 5 Willow Glen, 18-25, 20-25, 25-21, 25-19, 15-11 to advance to Wednesday's semifinal round against top-seeded Mountain View at Gunn.
Fan, a 5-foot-9 senior who will play her college volleyball at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, does it all for Paly. She leads the team by a wide margin in both kills and digs. She makes up for her relative lack of size with exceptional jumping ability.
"She is our go-to hitter,'' said Palo Alto interim coach Benji Saetang, who was in charge Saturday with head coach Daniele Desiderio absent. "She's super smart, an all-around player and a great jumper.''
Fan is all for playing a variety of roles rather than being pigeonholed into one.
"I really like to mix it up,'' she said. "Volleyball is more fun when you can play any position you like.''
Fan and her teammates got off to a slow start Saturday dropping the first set 25-12 to the host Lancers.
The St. Francis players may have thought the rest of the match would also be easy, but Palo Alto (23-4) came back strong in the second set, jumping out to a 7-0 lead and was never headed in a 25-18 victory.
The top four seeds in the Open Division playoffs are all teams from the West Catholic Athletic League (Mitty, St. Ignatius, St. Francis and Sacred Heart Cathedral).
The league is so strong that teams come out of it extremely battle tested. Having the match tied up did not phase the Lancers, who took a 2-1 lead with a 25-19 third-set win.
St. Francis (24-12) looked as though it might close it out in the fourth set, battling back from an 11-8 deficit to take a 12-11 lead and then rallying from a 20-17 disadvantage to go on top 21-20.
But the Vikings were resilient. A kill by Fan put them up 22-21 and another kill by Fan provided the winner as Palo Alto tied up the match with a 25-23 victory.
Fan led Palo Alto with 19 kills. Amelia Gibbs had 16.
But that effort took a lot out of Paly, which had only played one other five-set match this season. St. Francis jumped out to an 11-2 lead and Palo Alto never recovered.
"We were just really exhausted,'' said senior libero Susanna Limb. "For all the hitters it's a lot of work jumping that long.''
So Palo Alto is out of the CCS Open Division playoffs, but the season is not over. The team automatically advances to the Northern California Division I playoffs, and that's something the team is looking forward to.
For Menlo, junior Sianna Houghton recorded 15 kills with a .452 hitting percentage and 13 digs.
Senior co-captain Kristin Sellers also had a double-double with 23 assists and 10 digs. She also delivered a pair of aces.
Selina Xu, a junior, distributed 22 assists for the Knights.
Junior outside hitter Grace King tallied a team-high 16 kills while senior opposite Ashley Dreyer had 10.
Senior libero Grace Enright collected a team-high 18 digs and had two aces while junior Riley Holland had seven digs.