The Menlo School and Sacred Heart Prep girls each had one outright Central Coast Section soccer title to their credit heading into Saturday's Division III finale at Valley Christian in San Jose.
"The goal was to win the CCS title," Menlo coach Donoson FitzGerald said "Coming into the game I thought it was going to be an exciting and close match between two evenly matched (and) very good teams. SHP played very well. They challenged us. This Menlo team responded with a strong effort and played hard. We struggled to find a rhythm offensively, but all the girls made big plays in key moments.
"Both teams created scoring opportunities and it was an exciting back and forth match."
The No. 6-seeded Gators (19-2-3) grabbed what looked to be the lead for good in the first 10-minute overtime period when freshman Cameron Gordon scored in the 88th minute off a cross from senior Alex Bourdillon.
However, top-seeded Menlo (17-3-3) got a saving goal from senior Sienna Stritter in the second overtime -- the 96th minute -- to earn a co-title. Stritter had missed from long range just four minutes earlier.
"Sienna's goal was beautiful. She had nearly scored a couple of other times in the game in similar one-on-one situations having beaten a defender on the dribble," FitzGerald said. "On her goal she executed, as great goal scorers do -- attack the goal, be composed, and score. We were all so excited when she got that goal to tie it up. Happy to get the tie and the championship. Being down a goal with four minutes left makes that goal feel fantastic."
The co-title is the fourth for the Knights, who also shared titles from 1988-90 and won the championship outright in 2012. The Gators won their first and only title in 2009.
"We played a great game," said SHP coach Ramiro Arrendondo. "My girls put out all their effort and followed our game plan. We created plenty of opportunities and I thought we put Menlo on their heels for the majority of the game. Alex (Bourdillon), Tierna (Davidson) and Cameron (Gordon) had an outstanding game."
Arrendondo also liked finishing with a school-record 19 victories.
"19-2-3 is a great record and, yes, we are all very proud of our team. The team bonded so well from the beginning of the season and we (coaching staff) had such an amazing time working with them.
"We know we had a great season this year and we will miss our senior class, but with such a young team we are also excited for the next few seasons."
The Gators will lose seven seniors -- Blair Hamilton, Bourdillon, Maddie Morgan, Brianna Carcione, Meagan Terpening, Maddy Jones and Kate Bechtel -- while the Knights will lose Stritter, Emma LaPorte, Amanda McFarland and Chandler Wickers.
Menlo finished the season with a 15-match unbeaten streak, last dropping a match on Jan. 4 to Francis Parker in San Diego.
"I am very happy that the girls got it done and earned a CCS championship," said FitzGerald, who praised sophomore goalie Schuyler Tilney-Volk and junior midfielder Leah Swig for their defensive efforts. "To win the third consecutive league title and another CCS championship is very rewarding and is really special.
"These four seniors(Stritter, Wickers, McFarland, LaPorte) are all outstanding players and special girls. I am so proud of what they have accomplished together and so happy to have been their coach."
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