In control of Saturday’s playoff match for the first two sets, the Mountain View High girls volleyball team dropped the third and trailed 17-14 in the fourth after surging San Mateo rattled off seven straight points.
But the Spartans didn’t panic – they talked it out – and rallied for a 25-23 win that sent them to today’s Central Coast Section Division II semifinals.
“We did a huddle and we were like, ‘OK, guys, we know what we can do,’” co-captain Eleonore Johansen said. “‘We’ve been through this situation before, we work so hard in practice and we know what we’re capable of. Let’s take a deep breath and just focus on the next point.’”
Top-seeded Mountain View (23-8) scored the next two points – on a kill and an ace by setter Ashley Kane – and didn’t seem fazed when the No. 9 Bearcats (10-15) answered with back-to-back points. The Spartans chipped away at San Mateo’s lead by scoring six of the next nine points, highlighted by Johansen’s kill off a backset from Kane and Kyra Palmbush’s dink shot after a long rally. Milayzia Bajala’s ace knotted the set at 22.
The Bearcats regained the advantage when a kill attempt by Payton Shaffer just missed landing in, but that would be their last lead. Mountain View tied the set at 23 on a Palmbush kill and Shaffer contributed consecutive kills – on a cross-court shot and off a nice set from Kane – to clinch it.
“Payton had a big swing at the end, Kyra had a couple nice kills at the end, a couple nice control blocks (and we had) a couple great digs in the back row,” Spartans coach Dave Winn said. “We rely heavily on Eleonore, so it was nice to see that when she didn’t dominate, other people had to step up. That was a team win.”
Although the Bearcats focused on stopping senior standout Johansen, she still totaled 10 kills and three blocks, along with 17 digs and three aces. Shaffer and Palmbush also notched 10 kills each, while Kane recorded eight kills, 29 assists and 15 digs.
Mountain View trailed scrappy San Mateo 12-10 midway through the first set, but the Spartans turned the tide with a 5-0 run punctuated by a Johansen kill. Mountain View maintained the lead the rest of the way, capping the set by scoring five of the last six points for a 25-16 win. Palmbush ignited the run with a big block, one of her three in the match.
The Spartans never trailed in the second set, jumping to a 9-3 lead. Johansen had back-to-back kills in that stretch and later tallied two of Mountain View’s five aces in the set, which it won 25-17.
The third set was tight throughout, but the Spartans lost the lead for good after Kane’s backset to Johansen for a kill put them up 14-13. The Bearcats scored the next five points and clawed their way back into the match with a 25-19 win.
“After the first two sets, we weren’t expecting them to come back as strong as they did,” Johansen said. “Ultimately, I’m super proud of my team. We were tight in the fourth set, pushed really hard and fought back for the win.”
Mountain View is set to meet No. 4 Woodside (20-13) in the semifinals 7:30 p.m. today at Gunn.
“It’s going to be tough – Woodside actually beat (San Mateo) twice in league,” Winn said. “But we’ve got a chance to win a match and go to the CCS finals for the first time in a long time, so I’m pretty happy.”