The season came to an end Wednesday for the Palo Alto girls volleyball team as Oak Ridge pulled out a 25-27, 25-18, 25-15, 25-27, 15-10 victory in the opening round of the NorCal Division I playoffs.
Palo Alto (23-5) was seeded fourth and Oak Ridge, a league champion, a misleading 13th. The visitors from El Dorado Hills had a size advantage all around the court and actually had a higher state ranking (39th to Palo Alto’s 42nd) according to MaxPreps.
“I thought we played real good defense, which helped us win the first set," said Chelsea Fan, one of eight seniors on the Palo Alto roster. “I didn’t expect to lose the next two sets. We had a real good talk before the fourth set and got real riled up. But in the fifth set we got off to a slow start. In a 15-point match you can’t get off to a slow start.’’
Fan did her best to keep Paly competitive, playing her customary all-around game and leading the team with 19 kills.
“She was unbelievable, she hit over us, around us and through us,’’ Oak Ridge coach Patrick Sanders said. “Quite a show she put on. A fantastic player. The whole team was scrappy, scrappy, scrappy.’’
Palo Alto led throughout the first set but Oak Ridge, in an indication of what was to come, made a run at the end to tie 24-24. Isabella Marcus and Avery Wooten combined on a block to give Paly the 27-25 win.
Oak Ridge jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the second set and a 10-4 lead in the third set and was never headed in either.
“We had a game plan that we executed in the first set,’’ interim coach Benji Saetang said. “In the second and third set we didn’t execute. We fought back but too late. Our mental toughness was up and down.’’
Palo Alto got off to a good start in the fourth set, leading by as much as seven at 13-6 and 18-11. But at 24-18 the Vikings were unable to come up with set point and watched Oak Ridge rally to draw even at 24-24. It would have been a very unfortunate way to end the season if they allowed Oak Ridge to come back all the way and take that set to win the match 3-1. But Palo Alto responded and pulled it out to go to a fifth set.
So the high school careers have come to an end for those eight seniors.
“It’s been a great four years,’’ Fan said.