Things just got a whole lot more interesting in the world of Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division girls’ volleyball.
Woodside (6-1 Bay Division, 13-7 overall) forced a three-way tie in the Bay Division, triumphing over Menlo-Atherton (6-1, 12-4) yesterday in a five-set thriller — 25-18, 21-25, 25-23, 18-25, 16-14. Currently at the midpoint of the season, Carlmont joins Woodside and M-A in sharing a claim of first place in the Bay.
Despite a career performance by Menlo-Atherton junior Devin Joos, the Bears could not overcome the Wildcats senior tandem of Christine Alftin and Dani Walsh. Joos notched a remarkable match-high 40 kills, including 16 kills in Game 4. But with Game 5 deadlocked at 13-13, Woodside denied Joos her 41st kill with game-saving backline defense to force game-point. Woodside soon closed it out with Walsh’s 16th match kill to claim an emotional victory.
“Now we’re tied,” Woodside head coach Kyle Mashima said. “It’s a three-way tie for first. Now all we need to do is repeat the round, but beat Carlmont, and we will win our league.”
That could be a tall order, considering Menlo-Atherton isn’t playing at full strength. Bears senior hitter Pauli King missed her second straight game yesterday with a shoulder ailment. There is no timetable for her return. Woodside head coach Ron Whitmill said she is game-to-game, but seems confident she will rejoin the team at some point this season.
“She wants to be out there more than anybody,” Whitmill said. “She wants to be out there more than we want her out there…. It’s hard to game plan without her. It’s hard for her to not be able to play.”
King is still very much in the mix though, as she manned the first chair on the bench yesterday, acting as part cheerleader, part tactician. He emotions were evident as she frustratingly stomped her foot good and heavy as Woodside took a pivotal 15-14 lead in Game 5.
But King’s absence has given Joos an opportunity to shine, and boy has the junior seized it. Joos and Alftin locked up in an epic battle, and both teams catalyzed around their top hitters.
“It was fun just watching the best two players on the court going after one another,” Whitmill said.
The two actually have a long history together, having played on a girls’ basketball club team in third grade. And they were pretty good. Their Paye’s Place squad travelled to Anaheim to win a National Junior Basketball championship. Alftin played center on the team, with Joos playing wing.
Neither Alftin nor Joos backed down yesterday though, as the two traded kill-for-kill in the decisive Game 5. Joos tabbed a set-high seven kills, while Alftin totaled six of her 30 match kills.
According to Alftin, however, Walsh was the player of the game for Woodside. The versatile senior hitter stepped up in Game 3 with a stunning performance, totaling six of 16 match kills. Walsh tabbed the final two kills of the set to give Woodside the win. But the most impressive point came earlier in the set when she finessed an over-the-back, two-handed volley with her eyes virtually closed to give the Wildcats a 23-20 lead.
Meanwhile, Walsh’s defense was the defining element of the game, according to Alftin.
“I give her the game because of the defense, because there were a lot of balls she picked up,” Alftin said. “She definitely saved us today.”
Menlo-Atherton also impressed with its depth, getting a superb effort at net from Heilani Hoeft, who dazzled with seven blocks. Meanwhile senior libero Virginia Lane balanced the court with stellar backline defense.
Lane said her team responded to the energy Joos brought to the court.
“She definitely can be (a game-changer)… especially with her energy,” Lane said. “She gives everybody else confidence and then from there it’s like pedal to the metal.”
Overall, M-A is still confident as it heads into the second half of the season.
“Maybe this is what it takes,” Whitmill said. “Maybe it takes losing a match to see what can happen…. But it’s not a big deal. We’re still in first place, and we plan on winning the league. It’s just a bit of a wake-up call, because there’s some good teams in our league.”
Other Bay results
Carlmont (6-1, 16-8) came from behind to defeat South City (2-5, 12-1) – 23-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-13. Scots seniors Charlotte Jackman and Ella McDonough each tallied a team-high 13 kills, while sophomore Alex Lay tabbed six service aces.
Burlingame (4-3, 15-8) downed San Mateo (1-6, 4-15) in straight sets – 25-12, 25-21, 25-20. Bianca Alvarez paced Burlingame with 14 kills, while Isabell Walker tabbed 20 assists.
Ocean Division results
Westmoor (5-2, 15-14) swept Jefferson (0-6) –25-4, 25-10, 25-13. Westmoor senior Marinel Alcantara had nine kills, senior Hanna Piczon contributed eight kills, while Marlene Alcantara had 17 digs.
Terra Nova (6-1, 13-2) downed Half Moon Bay (3-4, 7-13) – 25-12, 25-12, 25-19. Ali Vidali had a match high 18 kills.
Sequoia (7-0, 17-6) defeated El Camino (1-6) – 25-16, 25-12, 25-14. Rachel Fink and Leann Robinson tabbed 10 kills apiece, while Joy Robinson had 11 kills in just two games.