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September 17, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, September 17, 2004

Los Altos digs deep Los Altos digs deep (September 17, 2004)

Eagles defeat Menlo in five games

By Colleen Corcoran

Los Altos' Erin Saliba opened the Sept. 10 volleyball game against Menlo School with an ace. She served again and again as Menlo shanked the ball left and right. Quickly, the score was 4-1. The ball wasn't coming back.

When it did, the synchronized Eagles front line was indomitable at the net. Their borders were well-defined and well-defended. Menlo was driven out of bounds.

As the game began, so did it end, Los Altos winning 25-17. The Eagles won the match 25-17, 18-25, 25-10, 22-25, 15-5.

Between solid first and fifth game Eagle wins, the two teams exchanged a tenuous lead. In the end, unwavering confidence and flawless serving sustained Los Altos' momentum.

"It was a roller coaster," said Los Altos coach David Winn. "But I'm ecstatic. This is a pretty young team, and to do something that mature, to go into a fifth game against a team that goes deep into the playoffs every year is unbelievable."

When times got tough, both teams looked to their tallest, Menlo to Alex Fisher and Los Altos to Lauren Schaefer.

While Menlo coach Ryan Cooling urged his team to make a comeback, the Knights broke away from a 11-11 tie in game two, showing the consistency, coordination and control that has taken them to CCS finals so many times before.

Fisher closed the game with a characteristic kill.

Lauren Schaefer's skills at the net were complimented by a solid Los Altos defense in game three. This time, at 3-3, the Eagles broke away to win it.

The game ended 25-10 with a block by Schaefer.

"Both teams rely on key players," Winn said. "Lauren Schaefer is our key player, but tonight everyone stepped up.

"Last year, we had seven seniors, so it was a totally different expectation. We set the ball high, and we pounded the ball down. This year, we've got two seniors and it's all defense. We keep balls up, tip balls in, make them make mistakes. That's what I'm asking them to do, and they're doing it so far."

Menlo hung on to game four, but barely. At one point, with Fisher slamming the ball, Los Altos trailed 6-0. Later, the teams tied at 15-15, and Fisher walked off the court with a twisted ankle. Both teams had to dig deep.

Then, the Eagles let a lead and another tie slip away, and lost the fourth game 25-22.

Although the team that wins the fourth game often wins the fifth, that wasn't the case last Friday.

"In this case, I just looked into [our players'] eyes at the time-out between games and said, 'This is our house. We've got our fans over there. They're loving you. Go out and show them that you deserve this,'" said Winn. "The key was confidence. They never lost it."

Los Altos sophomore Gracie Lerch stepped to the service line at the start of game five to a standing and screaming crowd. One after another, she served aces. Not until 9-0 did the Knights manage a sideout.

The Eagles served Menlo off the court, winning 15-5 and taking the match.

Having beaten Branham on Sept. 7, the Eagles proved themselves twice in one week, extending their record to 6-1. They were scheduled to play two more non-league matches against Notre Dame Belmont on Sept. 14 and Westmont on Sept. 16.

E-mail Colleen Corcoran at [email protected]

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