SHP girls continue volleyball season in NorCal tourney

Sacred Heart Prep team captains (l to r) Haley Martella, Celia Charlton, Cate Desler and Caroline Caruso pose with the CCS Division IV runnerup trophy.

Sure, it hurts to lose in a championship match, especially considering how close they came to reversing a negative trend.

The Sacred Heart Prep girls volleyball team played well enough, at times, in its 20-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-23 loss to West Bay Athletic League rival Notre Dame-Belmont on Saturday in the finals of the Central Coast Section Division IV playoffs at Palo Alto High.

"We knew what to do," SHP coach Allison Magner said. "We strayed from our game plan and din't refocus after some runs. Notre Dame is a great team and we'd absolutely like another chance."

The good news is that the Gators (25-8) could get another chance at the Tigers (30-14) in the Nor Cal Regional semifinal.

Sacred Heart Prep will open NorCals on Wednesday at home against Del Oro (18-14) at 7 p.m. in Division II. The Gators are seeded third in the tournament.

SHP will have to win twice before getting another shot at Notre Dame-Belmont, the second seed. Carlmont earned the top seed.

Ally Polverari has missed the past several games because of an injury. While her absence hurt, the Gators turned to Eliza Foley, who stabilized the position and played effective defense.

"Eliza stepped in and did an incredible job," Magner said. "Her defense was impeccable."

What's hard to replace is Polverari's offensive skills and her serve. She leads the team in aces.

"Ally scores points," Magner said. "She has great ball control. You're going to miss someone who has been a key player."

Senior setter an co-captain Haley Martella agreed.

"Ally is a solid player all around," Martella said. "She's an exceptional player who can hit the ball where she wants."

Martella, one of four seniors on the team, thinks the Gators did well to replicate what last year's team accomplished.

Last year's team, which lost to Monte Vista Christian-Watsonville in the CCS finals, also lost to them again in the NorCal semifinals.

"It's been a super exciting, awesome season," Martella said. "We have amazing team chemistry and we lived up to expectations from last year."

Despite losing, Martella said "it's just another day to get better."

Cate Desler leads thge Gators in kills and is a leader in digs as well, alongside senior libero Caroline Caruso.

Elena Radeff added 10 kills on .818 hitting against the Tigers and Alexis Bartlett also contributed.

Sacred Heart Prep looked good in winning the first set, 25-20, but Notre Dame-Belmont was the better team the rest of the way.

The Gators were down, 24-17, in the fourth set before scoring six straight points. A receiving error gave the Tigers the set and match.

In other NorCal volleyball news, Menlo School (29-5) travels to Turlock (33-8) in an Open Division first-round match while Palo Alto (23-4) hosts Oak Ridge (21-8) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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