Coming into their final-regular season match of the 2013 season, the Sacred Heart Prep girls lacrosse team had never beaten Menlo School in its history -- falling victim to the Knights many times during Menlo's 59-game league winning streak that stretched over seven seasons.
However, Sacred Heart Prep finally broke through on -- appropriately enough -- Senior Day last year and again in the championship game of the West Bay Athletic League playoffs.
After Wednesday's match, the Gators now have a historic three-game winning streak against their neighborhood rival.
Thanks to late second-half goals by sophomore Ally Mayle and senior Caroline Cummings, Sacred Heart Prep survived a frantic Knights' rally to post a 14-13 victory and take over sole possession of first place in the Foothill Division of the WBAL.
"Last year was exciting, but that was a different team and a different season," Sacred Heart first-year head coach Kate Hourigan said. "We knew this was going to be a high-intensity game, and I think the girls worked up to that expectation."
Mayle and Cummings were the two offensive stars for the host Gators (4-0, 9-3), scoring six and three goals, respectively. All three of Cummings' goals came in the second half, including the game-winner.
"We obviously knew we could beat Menlo this year," said Mayle, "but we didn't know what the outcome was going to be. Thankfully, we won."
Sophomore Parvathi Narayan led Menlo (2-1, 7-4) with four goals, with fellow sophomores Kira Sze and Nikky Price each adding three goals. Talented freshman Sophia Donovan contributed three goals and three assists.
Menlo opened up the first half red hot, outscoring Sacred Heart Prep 6-3 in the first 10 minutes of the contest, helped by Narayan's three early goals. Sacred Heart Prep controlled the next 15 minutes of the game, shutting out the Knights while scoring four goals to open up a 7-6 lead at halftime.
"The energy level of the defense went up," Hourigan said of her team's play toward the end of the first half. "They were a little bit tighter on their marks and a little bit quicker on their slides. I think they were just coming together a little more as a unit as the game went on."
The teams remained relatively even for most of the second half, until Cummings, Mayle and sophomore Libby Muir helped lead a 3-0 spurt that put Sacred Heart up 12-9 with six minutes remaining.
The Knights came storming back, scoring three goals over the next minute of play, including two by Donovan, to tie the game at 12. That tie lasted barely 10 seconds as Mayle took the ensuing draw right to the net, and scored the go-ahead goal for the Gators.
"We had to calm everything down and realize this was our game. We didn't want them taking it away in the last couple of minutes," Mayle said of her team's mindset coming down the stretch.
Cummings added the winning goal with 3:14 remaining and, despite Narayan scoring one final goal with 53 seconds left (off an assist from Donovan), the final draw wound up in Sacred Heart Prep's possession and Mayle ran it away from the defense to run out the clock.
Menlo will have to wait around a month to try and exact its revenge against the Gators, as the two teams don't face off again until May 2 at Menlo.
"It's going to be another rough game," said Mayle, looking ahead to the Gators' next match against the Knights. "We need to practice very hard and maintain the level that we're at, and hopefully they can maintain the level that they're at and it should be another good game. They're a very good team."
Although Menlo might not be used to this level of competition within its own division, Knights' head coach Jen Lee was excited that her team now has a competitive rival just up the street.
"I try to go with the big picture instead of how I personally feel or my team feels, and it's really good for the game and for the league," Lee said of SHP's recent success. "We know and love many of the players on the (Sacred Heart) roster, so there is a familiarity of love along with rivalry.
"The level of play is very much on the rise on the Peninsula, as evidenced by the games last spring and the one that was played today. These are exciting times in lacrosse."
Especially for Sacred Heart Prep, which is making program history with every win over Menlo.
In other girls' lacrosse action Wednesday, Palo Alto (4-1) got four goals from Ami Drez and three from Paige Bara in a 13-5 win over Carlmont in Santa Clara Valley Athletic League play. Allie Peery added two goals for the Vikings (5-4 overall).