It wasn’t Odessa, Texas and it wasn't football, but Palo Alto
girls volleyball coach David Winn said it felt like it.
Winn and his Vikings were given a parade through downtown Palo Alto, a stone’s throw from Stanford University and a short drive to the high-tech world of Silicon Valley.
Palo Alto had won the California Interscholastic Federation Division I state title a couple of weeks before and along with the school’s football team, which pulled off a shocking state Division I Bowl title win over heavily favored Centennial, the locals gave a memorable celebration.
This had an old-school feel.
“There were three- or four-thousand people to pay tribute,” Winn said. “They were loud and appreciative. It was an amazing cap to an amazing season. It felt like what it must have been to be at an Odessa, Texas pep rally.”
The celebration continues today.
Palo Alto has been selected as the MaxPreps National Female Team of the Year presented by Playtex Sport.
The Vikings (41-1) earned the award by completing a season of firsts: a Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division title; Central Coast Section Division I crown; Northern California championship; and win against a national No. 1-ranked team. Palo Alto defeated Long Beach Poly
– then No. 1 in the MaxPreps Freeman Rankings – with an absolutely thrilling 25-17, 20-25, 25-21, 11-25, 17-15 victory at San Jose State.
Consecutive aces by junior Maddie Kuppe capped the improbable victory and season, setting off a wild celebration on the court.
“The serve and moment seemed to float in time forever,” Winn said. “When the referee finally snapped the flag down (signaling the serve was good) we all went crazy. The celebration was incredulous.”
Palo Alto was selected among the finalists for the Playtex award and following a nationwide vote. The staff at MaxPreps picked the Vikings for their resilience, team play and unlikely route to a state title. Palo Alto featured earlier this year
Among the other teams they beat out: * Papillion-LaVista South (Papillion, Neb.) volleyball –
Papillion went 41-0 and not only won a state Class A title, but ended No. 1 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings. * Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) basketball –
Led by MaxPreps/Playtex National Athlete of the Year Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
, the Monarchs (34-1) won their second straight mythical national championship. * St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.) basketball –
Despite losing two McDonald’s All-Americans to graduation, the Rams (29-2) won their third straight and seventh state title and finished No. 14 in the Xcellent 25. * St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) soccer –
The Raiders secured their 11th state title and recorded 24 shutouts en route to a 25-1 record. They allowed just two goals all season.
Palo Alto was led by their two seniors Megan Coleman
, a 5-foot-10 libero headed to Claremont McKenna, and Trina Ohms
, a 5-11 outside hitter signed to the University of Pennsylvania.
Coleman had a remarkable 543 digs, while Ohms was second on the squad with 380 kills.
The leading hitter was Washington commit Melanie Wade
, a 6-5 junior who had 537 kills and hit at an impressive 49-percent rate.
Wade had 15 kills in the championship match and was picked as the Most Valuable Player. Coleman, Wade and junior Caroline Martin
(167 kills on the season) were all-tournament picks and setter Kimmy Whitson
won the sportsmanship award.
The 5-10 Whitson had a remarkable 1,148 assists on the season and has committed to the University of Pacific. She had 113 kills, 32 blocks and 167 digs on the season.
The other strong attacker for Palo Alto was 6-2 junior outside hitter Kuppe (227 kills).
She helped the Vikings earn a No. 2 national ranking according to the final Freeman Rankings and No. 17 in the Xcellent 25. Prepvolleyball.com had Palo Alto No. 10.
Longtime area sports writer Keith Peters said the Vikings had it all.
"They had height (Wade and Kuppe) and a great setter (Whitson)," said
Peters, sports editor of the Palo Alto Weekly and former scribe with the
Peninsula Times Tribune. "They had a great libero (Coleman) and outside hitter
(Ohms). They had experience and talent. And Dave Winn made it all work."
With all but Ohms and Coleman returning, Palo Alto will be favored to make a return visit to the state finals.
It's doubtful they'll be able to recreate the drama of the 2010 finals, though.
After Kuppe’s first ace in the title match, Long Beach Poly, down 16-15, called timeout. Winn didn’t let the Vikings think anything but victory.
“I looked at them and told them ‘That’s it. This is the last point of the season. We’re winning it right now,'" Winn said.
“You never want to say it, but honestly this team just felt like a team of destiny. They were so resilient. They are wonderful people. They worked hard. They deserved it.” See the MaxPreps 2010-11 Female Athlete National Awards page. See who was picked as Coach of the Year and Player of the Year.