Vikings stun Panthers in comeback fashion

Matthew Fogarty, Author

The Palo Alto High School Vikings volleyball team defeated the Presentation High School Panthers Tuesday night in five sets after a long match that included runs from from both sides.

Throughout the match, which lasted two hours and 15 minutes, one thing was clear: the Vikings have depth. With junior Gillian Chryst already out with an ankle injury the Vikings’ starting setter, senior Sarah Limb, left the game part way into the first set with an apparent ankle injury and did not return.

However, the Vikings never skipped a beat as they rallied in true team form to force a fifth set and eventually take the match.

“Unfortunately Sarah rolled her ankle so we had to switch the offense up, but our girls stuck with it,” head coach Dave Winn said.

Senior Keri Gee echoed Winn’s statement.

“We got things switched up right at the start of the match and we adjusted beautifully,” Gee said.

The Vikings started off strong in the first set with two consecutive kills from freshman Jessica Lee and senior Becca Raffel to put them up by a score of 2-0. However, the Panthers were not put away easily. Presentation started a string of strong defensive plays knotting the score and eventually taking the lead, 6-4. The Vikings responded with incredible defensive play of their own, Gee making two saves out of bounds.

Strong serves by junior designated server Molly Fogarty and the defense to back them up eventually put Paly back on top by a score of 14-10. The Vikings never looked back as the energy from the home crowd rising to their feet seemed to energize their play and shift momentum towards them. As the crowd stood and applauded with the Vikings ahead, 24-19 junior Jade Schoenberger spiked a ball over the net resulting in a final point and a set victory.

Presentation, angry with their performance in the first set came out swinging in the second one propelling them to an early 5-1 lead.

With the exception of strong play and multiple kills by Raffel, the Vikings went flat and had no answer for the reenergized Panther squad as they let their deficit slip to 15-6. The gap grew even wider with the Vikings eventually falling by a score of 25-13.

Cheers of “lets go Paly” from the section of parents filled the gym, reinvigorating the team for the third set.

The Vikings responded with some energy of their own in a third set that started off as a battle with even blows on both sides. With the score even at six, Presentation missed a serve, putting the ball in Lee’s hands for a serve of her own. Lee delivered with a strong one, which gave the Presentation defense some problems and resulted in a point for Paly.

The Vikings sprung out to a three-point lead highlighted by a block at the net by senior Lauren Kerr. The set was far from over as Gee pounded a serve into the net to tie the game up again. The score remained tight with each team exchanging leads and knotting the set up. Then, the Vikings got sloppy with hits out of bounds that put them in a three point hole. Unfortunately for Paly, that hole was too deep to dig out of as they lost the set 25-20 on a mishit by Raffel.

It appeared that the energy from early in the match had disappeared for the Vikings.

However, Gee, a captain, had some motivating words in the huddle to get her team back on track.

“When you’re down two sets you just have to forget what happened in the past and focus on the new set. In our huddle before the fourth set I told my team to ‘bring out the inner bad*** and give it to them and that’s just what we did,” Gee said.

Paly sprung back to life in the fourth set with three straight serves by Schoenberger resulting in a 3-0 lead. As they had all night, the Panthers responded. They went on a 8-1 run to put the score at 8-4. Paly did something that they hadn’t done forcefully all night. They responded back. Powerful kills by Raffel and Schoenberger brought the Vikings within one point.

The Vikings then knotted the game up and took a two-point lead with two consecutive serves in play by Schoenberger and a tip over the net by junior Anna Dukovic.

As echoes of “go” and “Paly” rang from opposite sides of the gym, Raffel pounded the ball off of a Presentation defender, extending the lead to five and bringing an already energetic audience to their feet.

Although the Panthers went on a small ending run it was too little too late as the Vikings took the fourth set 25-20 to force a fifth and final set.

With the match on the line, the Vikings started out strong and held on to win the fifth set and the match on a serve into the net by the Panthers.

Paly exceeded expectations in coming back against a quality opponent this early in the season and with players missing, according to Winn.

“It was an unexpected treat to be able to come back against a team like Presentation this early in the season,” Winn said.

Palo Alto will take on Sacred Heart at 7 p.m. Thursday at Sacred Heart.