DANVILLE -- Down two sets on the road against a confident section champion, the Palo Alto High girls volleyball team did something pretty special Tuesday night.
The No. 4-seeded Vikings overtook a stunned No. 5 San Ramon Valley 20-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-7 in the first round of the CIF Northern Regional Division I playoffs.
Paly (25-10), which was the surprise finalist in the Central Coast Section playoffs as the No. 5 seed, will travel to No. 1 Granite Bay (42-0) in Saturday's regional semifinals.
The Vikings turned the tables on the Wolves, who won the North Coast Section title, with strong net play and improved confidence after a nervous start. Senior outside hitter Becca Raffel hit a kill, her 17th of the match, to end the fifth set, off an assist from freshman Jessica Lee.
"I think after we were down two games we realized that this could be our last game, so we were just going to give it everything we could," Raffel said. "I'm really proud of the way we were able to give it everything and come back."
She said as soon as the team got its "energy" up, the passing got better, and they got better kills.
The big comeback was something new for Paly.
"I'm real proud of my team," Paly coach Dave Winn said. "We haven't done that all year. We haven't been able to come back from 0-2, and to do it one of the biggest stages against a quality team like San Ramon, that is well-coached, I couldn't be prouder."
San Ramon Valley standout Katherine Claybaugh, a sophomore outside, had 21 kills and 20 digs and fellow 10th-grader Milla Anderson had 21 kills and 26 digs.
The Wolves seemed in control of an evenly matched battle, outscoring Paly 7-2 after trailing 20-18 in the first set. Middle Delaney Reid and opposite Noelle Vleisides blocked the Vikings to close out the set. The Wolves also surged late from a 22-18 deficit to take the second set. Claybaugh sealed the set with a resounding kill.
But the Vikings emerged from a 7-3 deficit in the third set as Raffel, Jade Schoenberger and Lauren Kerr began to assert themselves.
"I thought we had our chances to win that match, for sure, and either the moment got the better of us, or Palo Alto turned out some fantastic defensive play," San Ramon Valley coach Brian Fujinaga said. "Palo Alto is very well coached. I have the utmost respect for Dave Winn, and I think it showed at the end. They were well-prepared for us tonight."
In the CCS playoffs, Palo Alto upset No. 1 seed Menlo-Atherton in five games in the semifinals before falling to Homestead-Cupertino in the championship match.
San Ramon Valley, the top seed in the NCS playoffs, prevailed in a very competitive division with a four-set win over No. 3 Heritage in the championship. The Wolves beat James Logan in four games in the quarterfinals and East Bay Athletic League rival California 15-13 in the fifth game of a tense semifinal battle.