Los Gatos Weekly Times
Wildcats display growth with 4-set victory in De Anza opener
CUPERTINO >> The Los Gatos girls volleyball team showed their potential in a 25-13, 16-25, 25-23, 25-20 victory over host Monta Vista during their Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division opener on Sept. 6.
“It was good to see that growth from the weekend showing in our league play today,” said new Los Gatos coach Nicole Ciari about her squad, which suffered a couple of tough losses at the Menlo School Tournament on Sept. 2 and finished sixth with a 2-2 record.
But against Monta Vista, the Wildcats bounced back from a second-set setback to pull out close third and fourth sets. Nicole Steiner led the Wildcats in 13 kills, and teammate Mia Halsey also producing double-digits with 11. Halsey, a junior, also led the team with 35 total passes.
Steiner is a returning starter for the Wildcats, along with Maya Walker and Allison Black, the latter a first-team ALL-SCVAL De Anza Division selection. In all, Los Gatos has six seniors and three juniors returning to its 16-player roster.
Ciari was a volunteer assistant coach at Santa Clara University last season, but she is no stranger to the Los Gatos High athletics program. She has been an assistant coach for the Los Gatos boys volleyball team since 2021, and also was an assistant coach for the girls squad during the 2021 spring season. Ciari is a 2015 graduate of Presentation High, where she played four years, and she also competed four years for Cornell College in Iowa.
Los Gatos entered this week with a 7-5 overall record.
Sacred Heart Prep, which reached the Central Coast Section Open Division playoff semifinals last season, defeated Los Gatos 28-26, 11-25, 25-16, 25-21 on Sept. 7.
Last year, Los Gatos was 11-14 overall and third in the SCVAL De Anza Division with an 8-4 record. The Wildcats reached the CCS Division I playoff quarterfinals as the No. 6 seed before falling to No. 3 seed Menlo-atherton, the eventual runner-up.
Against Monta Vista on Sept. 6, Britt Melinauskas and Sarah Herman joined Halsey, Black, Steiner and Walker as Los Gatos starters.
A kill by Halsey started a 12-3 Los Gatos run to complete the first set. But
Monta Vista's Lisa Smith served for five straight points in the second set to give her team a 9-4 advantage that it never relinquished.
A kill by Black provided Los Gatos with a 4-3 lead in the third set. And while the Wildcats did not trail again, Monta Vista stayed close before a kill by Halsey ended it.
Most of the fourth set remained a tight affair. It was tied at 17-all before a quick hit by Black and two points by Halsey helped push the Wildcats to the match-clinching win.
Los Gatos faced Cupertino and Presentation this week after this article's deadline. The Wildcats travel to face Mountain View on Monday, then host Los Altos on Wednesday. Both SCVAL De Anza Division matches have a
start time of 6:45 p.m.
Time of possession and yardage gained indicated a one-sided outcome.
But the final score was as close as final scores can get without the game ending in a tie: Grant-sacramento 22, Los Gatos 21.
The visitors from the San Joaquin Section ran 77 plays from scrimmage and gained 432 yards. Los Gatos ran 34 plays for 230 yards.
“They had some long drives and we couldn't get off the field,” Los Gatos coach Mark Krail said. “In fairness to our defense, they were out there an awful lot and they gave us everything they had.”
The game came together virtually at the last minute earlier this week, after Los Gatos' scheduled
contest against Live Oak was called off. Not wanting to make a second straight road trip after last week's dramatic win at Liberty-brentwood, the Wildcats were able to convince Grant, the 3-AA state champions from last fall, to come to the Bay Area — a decision both teams were content with after the game.
“I have no regrets about taking this game,” Krail said. “None. Sometimes you learn more from a tough loss than an easy win.”
“They were hard-nosed, well-disciplined, very impressive,” Grant coach Carl Reed said of Los Gatos. “To pick up a game like this on short notice against a defending state champion, you have to have a lot of confidence. They played with amazing confidence.”
Boxer Kopcsak-yeung rushed for 72 yards on 12 carries for Los Gatos. Jaylen Thomas displayed his triple-threat ability by making an interception, scoring a receiving touchdown and throwing a touchdown pass.
Ryan Vernale and Lyndon Bailey both had sacks for Los Gatos, while Nate Goldsbury contributed 17 total tackles, including four for loss.
Los Gatos (2-1) hosts Palo Alto (2-1) tonight at 7.
Los Gatos junior Aydon Stefanopoulos, who a year ago placed fifth at the CIF state Division II championships, started his season with an individual victory at the Ed Sias Invitational at Hidden Valley Park in Martinez on Saturday.
Los Gatos placed fourth as a team in the large school boys race with 131 points. Besides Stefanopoulos, other top-25 individual finishes by Los Gatos runners were achieved by Ben Klarich (seventh, 10:38) and Jensen Bidmead (21st, 10:58).
The Wildcats placed eighth in the large school girls race with a score of 206. Los Gatos was paced in that race by Tatum Pyle (20th, 13:55.3) and Zoe Williamson (21st, 13:56.3).
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