Daily Journal Sports file
Amelia Tupou, a three-year varsity starter, is the engine that makes the Carlmont offense go.
Carlmont has shown some exceptional depth at the net this season.
From the surefire moxie of Ella McDonough to the power barrage of Charlotte Jackman, the Scots boast a pair of senior hitters who can kill at will. And through their first varsity season, junior Sabrina Miller and sophomore Alexis Morrow have proven their mettle by anchoring the block.
Meanwhile, the centerpiece of the starting six, running the playoff-bound squad like clockwork, has been setter Amelia Tupou.
Tupou — rhymes with “you go” — hasn’t received the acclaim as have some of the Bay Division’s heavy hitters. However, the senior has earned the praise of Carlmont head coach Chris Crader, who considers his third-year senior one of the elite talents of the Peninsula Athletic League.
“I think she’s the best setter in the league,” Crader said. “If we would have won the league (title), I would have made a push for her to be MVP.”
Carlmont fell two games shy of the title, finishing in a second-place tie with Menlo-Atherton behind Bay Division champion Woodside. Early in the season, it was Carlmont who handed Woodside its only loss in league play this season. But a two-game skid in the penultimate week of the season cost the Scots dearly, as they lost back-to-back games to Woodside and M-A.
“[Crader] wanted to win league, and we all jumped onboard with that,” Tupou said. “And then we played Woodside at our school, we beat them, and we were like,‘Oh. We have a chance at this. It’s completely possible.’ Then we were rolling … but we just kind of strolled our way through the middle of the season. Then when we played M-A and Woodside again, I don’t know (what happened).”
Still, the Scots earned the final guaranteed postseason bid in the Bay. They open Central Coast Section Div. I play tonight as the No. 6 seed, travelling to No. 3-seed Salinas for a 7 p.m. start. This marks the fifth straight year Carlmont has advanced to the playoffs. Now it’s win or go home for the Scots, who have amassed a 14-11 career record in CCS play, with two section crowns—first in the inaugural playoff tourney in 1975, then again in 2005.
While Woodside senior Christine Alftin was named Bay Division MVP yesterday, Tupou still received apt recognition. Carlmont’s setter earned a first-team All-Bay Division nod, her second in as many seasons.
Tupou is at a crucial juncture of her volleyball career though. Having played year round since she was a freshman, she has long desired to play in college.
“I really want to (play in college),” Tupou said. “Like, really badly.”
However, as she joins the elite Encore 18 club team this winter, Tupou is hoping to field a serious college offer. Many players at the high club level already have secured their future college plans. But Tupou said she has no idea what the future holds for her.
“No idea,” Tupou said. “So, this club season, it’s imperative that I get myself out there and hopefully something turns up.”
All of Carlmont’s five seniors are in the same boat, as none of them have inked a college commitment. McDonough is currently considering some schools on the East Coast. Senior libero Bailee Roces is also likely to play at the next level.
According to Crader, so to will Tupou. And he figures she will be a very pleasant surprise to some college coach somewhere.
“She’s going to end up somewhere and someone is going to be really fired up the third [day] of practice about what she can do,” Crader said.
That’s the thing about the entire squad. Smooth and efficient, the Scots don’t have the flamboyant talent as do their Bay Division rivals Woodside and M-A. They do have the talent though. Perhaps more importantly, Carlmont has remarkable team chemistry.
“I would say (we are) passionate,” Tupou said. “Everybody goes for every ball, they’re loud, everybody’s screaming. When our team is loud, that’s when you know we’re on our game.”
So, the Scots hope to make a ruckus in Salinas tonight. And if all goes according to plan, that ruckus will emanate from the setting prowess of Tupou.
“Being able to trust every single player on the court and know that they’re going to do their job when I need them to, I love that about my team,” Tupou said.