by Tom Hoglund
In another memorable overtime victory, the Palo Alto boys' lacrosse team capped its outstanding inaugural season Saturday afternoon on the Vikings' own field, winning the SCVAL playoff championship hours after the Paly girls' team also became league champions.
The boys' 10-9 victory over Mountain View came 1:05 into overtime, and just two days after the Vikings had rallied from three goals down with 1:15 remaining to defeat No. 1 seed Menlo in overtime. It also came just four days after getting a go-ahead goal with only a few seconds left to defeat Burlingame in their first playoff game.
Thus, living on the edge and learning to win the close ones certainly paid off handsomely for Palo Alto (17-5), in only its first season of competition.
Junior John Brunett starred for the Vikings in the title match, getting five goals (three unassisted) and winning 14 of 19 face-offs. While Paly never trailed during the match, Mountain View treated the Vikings to a little of the comeback medicine they had dished out at Menlo. Down 9-6 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Spartans scored the next three goals – the final one with but 22 seconds remaining in regulation time.
Brunett won the ensuing face-off when teammate Kris Hoglund grabbed the ground ball, dodging his way downfield as the seconds ticked off the clock. Hoglund's running shot was on frame in the lower left corner of the goal, but Spartans' goalie Robbie Hinson snuffed out the hopes of the Viking faithful with one of his eight saves on the day, forcing the game into overtime.
Once again, Brunett won the face-off, giving the Vikings possession. Just over a minute later, he took Hoglund's pass and rifled it past Hinson's right knee to send the partisan crowd into jubilant celebration, and crown the Vikings victors of the first-ever SCVAL boys' lacrosse championship match.
In addition to Brunett's great face-off and scoring, the Vikings were paced by Hoglund, who got two goals and three assists, attack Cory Valenti, with a goal and two assists, middie Kevin Proceviat with a goal and an assist, and freshman attack Jonny Glazier, with a goal. Goalie Josh Chin's 11 saves understated yet another standout performance – on three occasions he darted from the cage to body check threatening Spartans, preventing near-certain goals.
Although the championship game had been scheduled for Paly's new field, Mountain View was technically the home team as a result of an irregular seeding arrangement. Paly had beaten the Spartans in their previous meeting, 11-7, and had a better league record, but Mountain View received a higher seed because it played in the De Anza Division while Paly played in the lower El Camino Division. As a result, Paly had to play the extra playoff game against Burlingame, and were visitors in the championship game.
Mountain View gave its all to defeat the Vikings. When the Spartans fell behind 9-6 at the start of the fourth quarter, their coach's screaming exhortation to his players could be heard clearly across the field by the fans. The wily coach also called for a stick check at the start of overtime, hoping to give his team the ball with a man-up advantage.
Mountain View sophomores Zach Baier and Aubrey Myjer responded admirably to the coach's mandate, combining for two Myjer-to-Baier goals, including the one with only 22 seconds to go, during the remainder of the fourth period. Baier ended up with four goals to pace his team, while Myjer had a goal and three assists, junior Luke Westmoreland had two goals and an assist, and freshman Grant Wineman had a goal and two assists.
The young Spartan players played a great possession offense throughout the championship, while their disciplined defensive play resulted in only three fouls. In contrast, Paly players sat out nine times during the game. The difference-maker was face-off performance, with Brunett and Hoglund, helped by LSM Elliot Beckstrom and speedy Spencer Sims as well as the other Paly middies, winning 17 of 22. Ironically, Paly lost its star face-off specialist earlier in the year to injury – but Brunett's standout replacement performance led the team to the championship.