The second-seeded Los Altos High girls volleyball team turned to an unlikely player for kills to close out Saturday’s Central Coast Section Division II quarterfinal match against No. 7 Los Gatos.
Setter Hanna Koehler notched five kills in the fourth game – three of them at crunch time – to help the Eagles reach the semifinals for the first time since 2004.
“It’s the best feeling as a setter to get kills,” said the senior, who totaled 10 kills, 29 assists and 13 digs Saturday. “I played beach volleyball in the summer, so I had to learn how to hit and do a lot of the other skills on top of setting; I’m happy my hard work’s paid off.”
Although outside hitter Carmen Annevelink led the team with 24 kills – including the match-winner on a shot into Los Gatos’ back row – Koehler’s kills were particularly timely for Los Altos in the 25-12, 23-25, 25-20, 25-21 home victory.
After the Wildcats scored to cut the Eagles’ lead to 20-18 in the fourth game, Koehler delivered a shot that dropped toward the backline. Los Gatos rallied again, narrowing Los Altos’ advantage to 22-20, before Koehler came up with another kill. The Wildcats scored the next point, but Koehler responded once more – firing a right-side shot that prompted her to jump for joy.
Sarah Tritschler served for the match, finished off by Annevelink’s kill.
This marked the Eagles’ third win over the Wildcats this season; the previous two meetings were in SCVAL De Anza Division play.
“We knew they were going to come in and play hard,” Los Altos coach Peter Kim said of Los Gatos. “It’s a school with volleyball tradition and they have a lot of pride.”
All but the first game was close; the Eagles (31-5) jumped to a 19-6 advantage and never allowed the Wildcats (21-13) to threaten.
The second game was a different story. Los Altos’ lone lead came at 6-5, after which Los Gatos went on a 5-0 run. The Eagles tied the game at 18, 20, 21, 22 and 23, but the Wildcats always had an answer and won by two.
A refocused Los Altos team scored the first three points of the third game – two on kills from Michelle Albright – and quickly built a 16-4 lead. Los Gatos rallied to cut the deficit to 20-16, but the Eagles persevered to win on a dump shot by Kristen Liu.
“It was a match of ups and downs,” Kim said. “We were there, then we lost it, and then we were there again. I think we played a little tight, but we were able to overcome that.”
The coach praised his four seniors for coming through when they were needed most. Along with Koehler’s big night, Meghan McDermott totaled 12 kills and 16 digs, Albright had eight kills and three blocks and Katie Tritschler registered 29 digs.
Next up for Los Altos: No. 3 St. Francis (24-12). The semifinal match is scheduled 5:30 p.m. today at Los Gatos.
“I’m extremely excited to make the semifinals,” Koehler said. “We played St. Francis in a tournament and lost, but we didn’t have a very good match. We thought we could have won, so maybe we can redeem ourselves.”
St. Francis beat visiting No. 6 Woodside 25-21, 19-25, 27-25, 25-22 in Saturday’s quarterfinals.
No. 2 Homestead moved on to the CCS Division I semifinals by beating No. 7 Gunn 25-15, 25-20, 25-21 Saturday in Cupertino.
The Mustangs (24-7) are slated to meet No. 3 Salinas (22-9) 7:30 p.m. today at Santa Clara High.
Pinewood, the third seed in Division V, topped Trinity Christian 25-15, 28-26, 25-14 in the quarterfinals Saturday.
Mehra den Braven – the West Bay Athletic League Skyline Division MVP – led the Panthers (14-11) with 26 kills.
Pinewood is scheduled to face No. 2 Woodside Priory (14-12) 7:30 p.m. today at St. Thomas More in the semifinals.