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The girls varsity volleyball team traveled to Santa Clara High School to play Notre Dame High School, Belmont in the Central Coast Section (CCS) playoff quarterfinals on Saturday, November 5. Both teams placed first in their league during the regular season, with M-A sweeping the Peninsula Athletic League (PAL) and Notre Dame sweeping the West Bay Athletic League.

The Bears huddle during a timeout.

The Bears huddle during a timeout.

Last year, the Bears were CCS champions. Although Saturday’s loss put them out of contention for this title, they hope for postseason success as they move from the Open Division to Division 1 playoffs and work toward the state championship game.

Knapp sets as hitters approach.

Knapp sets as hitters approach.

In the first set, the Bears ran a 5-1 lineup that included senior setter Kirby Knapp, senior outside hitter Jacqueline DiSanto, and senior right side Eliza Grover, veteran varsity players who have been key playmakers for the Bears this season. Sophomore Erica Fischer played libero and the rookie middle blockers continued to impress as they held their own against Notre Dame’s powerful front row.

Middle blocker Alicia Letvin attacks from the right side.

Middle blocker Alicia Letvin attacks from the right side.

The Bears got off to a great start, taking an early 8-6 lead against the Tigers. Notre Dame fought back and tied the game at 13, and eventually took a 16-15 lead until DiSanto earned a kill out of middle back. DiSanto fired with another kill to tie the game at 17, and senior Chloe Johnson went back to serve.

 

After great serves by Johnson and smart hits by senior Kiana Sales, Grover ended the match with a kill off a fast ‘one’ set, 25-20 in the Bears’ favor.

Sales swings from the back row.

Sales swings from the back row.

In the second set, both teams left everything on the court. DiSanto switched up her attacks and had multiple kills off tricky roll shots, while sophomore middle blocker Alicia Letvin played great offense and defense. Despite their obvious effort, the Bears dropped set two to the Tigers with a final score of 25-20.

 

The third set was painfully close, but head coach Fletcher Anderson again relied on his starting lineup from set one, which proved its dedication with relentless defense and energetic offense. When the game was tied 4-4, Letvin served and earned three aces before Notre Dame recovered the ball when the score was 6-4.

Letvin serves.

Letvin serves.

M-A pulled ahead 9-5 after an impressive kill by freshman middle blocker Marit Hoyem and kept the lead for the rest of the set. Junior outside hitter Lauren Heller contributed several kills, including a smart attack off an overpass from Notre Dame to bring M-A’s lead to 16-13.

Heller jumps up with a smart cross-court hit.

Heller jumps up with a smart cross-court hit.

 

After a final kill by DiSanto, the Bears won set three 25-18. They carried this momentum into the fourth set, but the Tigers pulled away and managed to win with a fierce offense led by senior outside hitter Katie Smoot.

 

Both teams were focused on the victory in the fifth and final set, and the Bears left everything on the court. Sales earned the Bears’ first point with a kill, and when Notre Dame led 8-7, Knapp added a kill of her own with an aggressive setter dump. M-A put up solid blocks, but could not shut down the Tigers’ offense, and ultimately Notre Dame won 15-13. The Tigers will advance to the Open Division CCS semifinals.

Assistant coach Lauryn Anderson added, “We battled really hard and never gave up, but we played much more frantically than we normally do so our focus will be on staying calm and playing steady.”

Grover and Hoyem put up a big block.

Grover and Hoyem put up a big block.

Although they are out of the CCS Open Division playoffs, M-A will still compete for the Division I Northern California Championship. This tournament starts Wednesday, November 16, but the Bears must wait until the conclusion of the Open Division Championships in order to play their next game. If the team remains undefeated, M-A has the opportunity to be the Division I state champion.

View live tweets of the game here.

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