Paly avoids scare, defeats Los Gatos

Matthew Fogarty, Author

Good teams find a way to win close games even when they aren’t playing at their best. That is what the Palo Alto High School volleyball team did on Tuesday night.

Paly found a way to win in the fifth set of its first league match against its rival, the Los Gatos Wildcats, although the team didn’t always look like the champion.

The Vikings and Wildcats exchanged blows in the first set, but it all came down to the play of Paly senior Becca Raffel who carried the team when it needed carrying most.  Raffel pounded kill after kill into the Los Gatos defense, which had no answer as the Vikings barely took the final set with a 25-22 victory.

After gaining momentum on the first set victory, Paly cruised to a second set win behind senior Lauren Kerr, who kept Los Gatos hitters in check with her blocks at the net.  As if blocking wasn’t enough, Kerr added to her outstanding performance with several kills.

“For the first two sets and definitely the second set, we were on fire,” head coach Dave Winn said.

Unfortunately, Paly fell flat in the next two sets as the team was plagued by mistakes on defense and missed hits.

Although they played sloppily for the majority of the third and fourth sets, Paly seniors showed up when it mattered most.  In the fifth set, Raffel, Kerr and Keri Gee teamed up for a win. After leading 14-6 in the set, the Vikings let Los Gatos back in the game like they had in the previous two sets, but recognized things needed to change.

The Vikings found a way to grind out one last point and take the match.

“We survived,” Winn said. “I don’t know if we necessarily played our best volleyball.”

However, considering the Vikings were swept by Los Gatos last year including a disappointing loss at home, it pleased Winn that his team could come up with a victory.

“It was huge to get a win against [Los Gatos] who beat us in five [games] on our home court last year,” Winn said.  “I had visions of that happening this year and it wasn’t going to leave a good taste in anyone’s mouth.”

The Vikings look to start off 2-0 in league when they host the Homestead High School Mustangs at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday.