Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Woodside’s Michelle Spence, left, Dani Walsh, center, and Danielle La Force celebrate the Wildcats’ come from behind win over Carlmont Tuesday night. The win leaves Woodside all alone in first place in the PAL Bay Division.
Woodside’s Christine Alftin flies in for an attack during the Wildcats’ five-set win over
Carlmont. Woodside lost the first two sets before rallying for the victory, which moved it into sole possession of first place in the PAL Bay Division.
While Christine Alftin is arguably the best player in the Peninsula Athletic League, her Woodside squad (10-1 Bay Division, 17-7 overall) is now the outright top team in the Bay Division.
Entering into play yesterday tied with Carlmont (9-2, 19-8) for first place in the Bay, Woodside, after dropping the first two sets, scored and emotional comeback win – 22-25, 12-25, 25-21, 25-23, 15-13.
The Scots kept Alftin in check early on, but the 6-foot senior would not be denied, notching 34 match kills, including 11 kills in the third set to help turn the tide, before tabbing eight kills in the decisive fifth set. And as she fired the powerful game-winning shot, the team’s outpouring of emotion in front of its home crowd culminated in what is thus far the volleyball dogpile of the year.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Alftin said. “I’m so proud of my team. Especially after that second game, we just got crushed.”
Indeed. The last time the two teams met on Oct. 3, the Scots surged from behind to overpower the Wildcats in the final two sets. And yesterday, the Scots nonchalantly picked up right where they left off, capturing the first two sets and looking poised to cruise to victory.
But Woodside made some big-time adjustments, getting back into rotation after an injury to sophomore Jesse Larkin midway through the first set. The injury forced head coach Kyle Mashima to shuffle his lineup. And while Larkin soon returned, Woodside found itself out of system until retooling to start Game 3.
Impromptu pep talks from Alftin and fellow senior Dani Walsh also paid off.
“We told [our teammates] we’re a team that can come back,” Alftin said. “We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.”
With Alftin moving up from the back row, Woodside turned the tide in a hurry. And while Walsh wasn’t the force to be reckoned with at net she typically is, her on-court leadership sparked Alftin big time.
With Woodside trailing 20-19 in Game 3, Alftin scored back-to-back kills to seesaw the advantage in the Wildcats’ favor. With the score deadlocked at 20-20, Walsh delegated as Woodside set a midcourt chance for Alftin. And as the dynamic hitter approached for a pipe shot, Walsh spurred her teammate with a spirited cry of: “Get up!”
The rally cry seemed to reverberate through the rest of the match. Woodside’s front row of Larkin, Heilani Hoeft, and Haili Hoeft commanded the net through Game 4. Then, to start Game 5, Walsh ripped consecutive kills to give the Wildcats an early lead which they would not relinquish.
“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we knew a lot was riding on this game,” Walsh said. “After the second set, we just put it all together and Christine stepped up, and we were able to come back.”
Looking forward, Woodside now holds its fate in its own hands. With three more games remaining in league, however, the Wildcats still have some tough customers to face, including a matchup with Burlingame on Thursday, and next Thursday’s season-finale against Menlo-Atherton.
“If we can maintain our momentum into Burlingame and win there, it doesn’t matter how we do against M-A, because we can still lose (to them) and be co-league champions,” Mashima said.
Despite the loss, Carlmont fronted a well-balanced attack, with 22 kills from senior Ella McDonough. Sophomore blocker Alexis Morrow tabbed five blocks, and senior Bailee Roces scored 11 service points in Game 2, including three aces.
Carlmont is now in a second-place tie in the Bay Division with its next opponent, Menlo-Atherton.
“It was a tough loss,” McDonough said. “But we’re just going to use it as a lesson, and come back Thursday against Menlo-Atherton.”
Other Bay results
South City went the distance to upset Burlingame – 22-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-20, 15-13. Burlingame’s Bianca Alvarez tabbed 13 kills and Isabell Walker had 43 assists.
Menlo-Atherton downed Hillsdale – 25-19, 25-22, 25-11. Pauli King paced the Bears with 15 kills, while Devin Joos tabbed 11 kills.
Aragon defeated San Mateo – 25-19, 31-29, 25-20.
Ocean Division results
Sequoia downed Half Moon Bay – 25-11, 25-14, 25-20. Sequoia’s Angela Huddelson, Joy Robinson, and Rachel Fink notched seven kills apiece.
Westmoor (8-3, 18-15) swept El Camino – 25-22, 25-11, 25-15. Westmoor’s Hanna Ticzon and Roni Nievera had a team-high six kills apiece. Junior libero Marlene Alcantara notched 23 digs.
Mills breezed past Jefferson – 25-16, 25-10, 25-4. Adrienne Lee had a match-high 14 kills for the Vikings, while Nabeela Rizvi contributed four kills.
Terra Nova defeated Capuchino – 25-11, 25-7, 25-23.