The races for automatic Central Coast Section playoff berths are coming down to the wire in the SCVAL De Anza Division. While the Palo Alto boys and girls aren't going to finish first, they do appear headed for the postseason.
The only remaining question for both Paly squads is where will they finish in league, will their CCS berths be automatic and how high will their seedings be?
The boys' season is coming down to Wednesday's final matches. Los Gatos (7-1-3) has wrapped up the division crown with 24 points, despite falling to Gunn on Monday, 2-1. Palo Alto (6-4-1) is second with 19 points and Milpitas (5-4-2) is third with 17, while Santa Clara (4-3-4) lurks with 16.
The Vikings (11-4-5 overall) will visit last-place Saratoga (2-9) on Wednesday, needing a victory to hold on to second place. A tie against the Falcons, who beat Paly in their first meeting, will earn the Vikings no worse than a tie for second with Milpitas.
A Paly loss, coupled with wins by Milpitas and Santa Clara, will drop the Vikings into a third-place tie with Santa Clara. Those teams met Monday with Paly pulling out a crucial 1-0 victory in a makeup match.
Paly junior Adam Zernik booted an indirect kick at the 30-minute mark, with fellow junior Kevin Ashworth heading in the winning goal.
"This was a very close game, with a strong north wind blowing that kept most of the play in the south end of the field," explained Paly coach Don Briggs. "Santa Clara had nine shots on goal in the first half to Paly's one. In the second half it was reversed with Paly have 10 shots to Santa Clara's two."
The Vikings had a chance to really put the game away in the second half, but twice hit the post and once the crossbar.
Briggs singled out junior Kevin Ashworth, freshman Riley Smith, junior John Christopherson and sophomore Ryan Holland for their efforts.
The Gunn boys, meanwhile, finished up league play at 4-6-2 (9-9-2) with its big 2-1 victory over Los Gatos. The Titans trailed by 1-0 until David Light earned a penalty kick and converted it. Soon after, Tim Sullivan scored off an assist from Light.
The Titans went 4-1-1 in their final six matches, keeping them in the De Anza Division next season and putting them in position for a possible at-large berth for the CCS playoffs next week.
In the PAL Bay Division playoffs, Menlo-Atherton (9-9-3) likely saw its season end in a 4-0 loss to host Carlmont in the semifinals on Monday. The Bears played without six key players, including five starters, who were ruled academically ineligible for posting a grade-point average below the minimum 2.0 for the fall semester.
Without those players, M-A dropped a 2-0 decision to Burlingame and a 2-0 match to Terra Nova to finish the regular season.
Palo Alto remained alive for one of three automatic CCS berths in the De Anza Division with a 3-2 victory over host Homestead on Monday.
Leah Gaeta scored two goals and Erika Hoglund provided the winner (with an assist by Alex Nguyen) as the Vikings (5-4-1, 13-4-1) moved within a point of third-place Los Gatos (5-4-2), which was tied by last-place Gunn (2-9-1, 4-14-2) on Monday.
No matter what Los Gatos does, the Vikings can overtake the Wildcats in their final two matches or at least tie them with a win and a tie -- if Los Gatos wins its final match.
On Monday, Paly played without standout midfielder Teresa Noyola, who was ill, and without starters Maeve Stewart and Kelly Jenks, who are in Florida at the Super Youth League Olympic Development Program camp in their age group.
Noyola should be available for Wednesday's match against second-place Monta Vista (6-1-3) at Mayfield Soccer Complex at 3:30 p.m., but may miss Friday's finale against Mountain View if she's called away to the U.S. Under-20 National Team for another camp in Southern California.
Gunn surprised Los Gatos by overcoming a 2-0 first-half deficit with a pair of second-half goals by Nikki Bahlman.
In the West Bay Athletic League, Woodside Priory (9-0, 11-6) all but wrapped up a second-straight title with a 9-0 romp over Mercy-San Francisco on Monday. Massiel Castellanos, Cami Simpson and Lauren Allen all had two goals each.
The Panthers beat Notre Dame-San Jose last Friday, 4-0, at De Anza College in Cupertino as Adriana Cortes scored twice.
Woodside Priory will play Mercy-Burlingame at Skyline College on Tuesday, will visit Harker on Wednesday (4 p.m.) in a makeup match and then closes the regular season Friday against Castilleja at the Mayfield Soccer Complex at 4 p.m.
The Panthers are expected to be a high seed for the CCS Division III playoffs that begin next week.