Volleyball celebrates improvement, looks to future success

William Sallomi, Author

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The Palo Alto High School volleyball team (23-11, 11-1) huddles during a time out in its match against the Gunn High School Titans (17-14, 10-2) on Oct. 14 at the Gunn gym. According to junior outside hitter Denise Ringwalt, the team had a great season, and improved much more over the span of the season than they had in the recent past. “Last year everyone got along but we didn’t improve as much together as we did this year,” Ringwalt said.  Photo: William Sallomi.

The Palo Alto High School volleyball team is celebrating  an impressive overall record of 23-11 and a successful season, which ended after a loss to the Turlock High School Bull Dogs (28-12, 10-2) the night of Nov. 16 at the Turlock gym in the first round of the Northern California playoffs.

The Vikings had a tough preseason, facing off against top level competition like the St. Ignatius College Prepatory Wildcats (32-9, 4-1) and the Valley Christian High School Warriors (28-12, 1-4). These rigorous matches served as solid preparation for the season ahead and were ultimately crucial in helping the girls acclimate to the new roster.

According to junior outside hitter Denise Ringwalt, once the season officially began, the girls began to better combine their talents and work together.

“I think the team this year was filled with extremely talented girls that worked together better and better as the season went on,” Ringwalt said.

Only the Los Altos High School Eagles (22-15, 7-5), out of all of the teams in the De Anza League, were able to defeat the Vikings, who finished the league with a remarkable record of 11-1.

The season had several high points, including a nail-biting match against the Eagles in which the Vikings won each set 25-22, and shattered a three-year losing streak to the Eagles.

Despite having an excellent season, Los Gatos High School Wildcats (20-16, 7-5) overpowered the Vikings in the Central Coast Section championship match. According to Ringwalt, the loss was unexpected and unfortunate for the hard working Vikings, and the injury of junior outside hitter Chelsea Fan was a key factor in the defeat.

“The CCS championships was a really difficult loss,” Ringwalt said. “The team worked really hard, but when Chelsea got hurt, everyone kinda fell apart.”

Fan said despite not making it as far as she had hoped, she is proud of the team and what it accomplished this season.

“A couple injuries toward the end made it [the season] end a little sooner than it truly should have, but overall I’m happy with how far we went this year compared to previous seasons,” Fan said.

The Vikings must say goodbye to many talented seniors, including setters Cassie Fong and Jessica Lee, and outside hitters Fiona Green and Katie Passarello. Fan said the seniors performed well throughout the year and will be tough to replace.

“The seniors were a huge part of our team this year and they contributed a lot on the court,” Fan said. “Next year we’ll definitely have trouble filling their spots.”

The team as a whole displayed excellent chemistry on and off the court, which was a significant strength and advantage. According to Fan, returning Paly players built upon chemistry that they formed during the previous year.

“A lot of girls who started this year played together last season so our on-court team chemistry was great,” Fan said.

This chemistry will play a role in the strength of the Vikings next season, who will take their experience this year and continue to work to create another high-level team.