Palo Alto, Presentation prevail in California

By Kirstin Olsen

The final two state champions of the 2011 volleyball season were crowned Saturday night in California, and it very well might have been a case of saving the best games for last.

In the CIF Division II state championship, Presentation (San Jose, Calif.) rallied from two sets down and fought off a match point to win its first CIF state championship in volleyball.

Led by 20 kills from Duke commit Emily Sklar, undersized Presentation took down taller La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) 20-25, 20-25, 26-24, 25-15, 15-9.

In the first two games, La Costa Canyon, ranked 42nd in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings, was in system and had a bevy of hitters to feed, particularly middle Natalie Bausback and outside hitter Cosy Burnett.

But the No. 15 Panthers rallied in the third set with steady play and smart hitting. Veronica Bither and Madison Cooper started to get all their hitters involved and had a great total team effort, never looking out of system.

The Division I final was packed full of drama as well.

No. 9 Palo Alto rallied from a six-point deficit in the fifth game and claimed back-to-back CIF state championships with a 25-17, 25-23, 22-25, 20-25, 17-15 win over No. 12 Marymount (Los Angeles).

In the first two games, Palo Alto was in a great rhythm, utilizing 6-foot-5 middle blocker Melanie Wade, a Washington commit, and getting great passing and hitting from senior outside hitter Maddie Kuppe.

But the momentum took a sharp turn starting in the third game.

Marymount took over with amazing defense and good all-around play. Lanti Moye-McLaren was a key weapon in the front and back row, hitting a variety of angles, and Marymount setter Lauren Fuller did a great job moving the ball around to her hitters.

In the last game, Marymount was up 13-7, but Palo Alto steadied its play and fought its way back in to win the match 17-15.

Wade finished with 26 kills, and the Vikings became the first Palo Alto team to win two straight titles.