Making the matchups even more intriguing are players on each team who also have commitments to the U.S. National Team.
Priory sophomore Mariana Galvan is leaving Friday to join the U.S. U-18 National Team for a training camp in Florida. She'll miss matches next week against Menlo and Mercy-Burlingame. Sacred Heart Prep senior Abby Dahlkemper will leave to join the U-20 squad the week of Feb. 13-20, missing only the season-ending league match against Menlo.
Thus, not only is it important to have both players on hand for each WBAL showdown, but winning those matchups becomes even more important.
Sacred Heart Prep swept the series in 2009 to win the league title with a 10-0-2 mark, advancing to the Central Coast Section Division III finals and winning it. Last season, SHP won the first match and lost the second while Dahlkemper was away with the U-17 National Team. The Panthers, however, also suffered a pair of ties with Menlo and finished second to the Gators once again.
On Tuesday, the league's top two teams met in their first showdown and, once again, Sacred Heart Prep came away the winner following a header by Dahlkemper in the 73rd minute for the winning goal in a 2-1 triumph.
Thus, SHP coach Jake Moffat was in a good mood afterward after yet another familiar opening result with Priory.
"This is the third straight year we've been in this position," Moffat said of the WBAL Foothill Division match."So, it's a comfortable position to be in."
Sacred Heart (4-0, 8-4-2) once again is sitting atop the division standings heading into Thursday's crucial match at Menlo (3-0-1, 4-3-5), which moved ahead of Priory (2-1-1, 7-2-3) and into second place following a 3-0 victory over Castilleja on Tuesday.
"If we can beat Menlo, it puts us in a great position," Moffat said.
With only a two-point lead over Menlo, Sacred Heart Prep needed a victory against the Knights to open up a solid lead.
The Gators appeared headed for a first-place tie with Menlo as they battled Priory to a 1-1 deadlock deep into their match. Dahlkemper changed all that when she rifled a shot off the hands of Priory keeper Liz Oliphant that went over the end line, resulting in a corner kick.
SHP sophomore Sophia Abuel-Saud placed the corner kick out front of the cage, forcing Oliphant to charge out. Dahlkemper, however, raced in and headed a shot past Oliphant and into the cage for the winning goal.
"A win here is huge," Moffat said, "not only from the standpoint of points, but from the momentum we've gained after it looked like we might have to settle for a tie."
Dahlkemper also scored in the seventh minute on an assist from Kendall Jager, but Priory countered just two minutes later when Darrah Shields found the net off an assist from Galvan.
The teams battled evenly after that, before SHP made its push in the second half to control the match. Sacred Heart senior Keighley Lane marked the dangerous Galvan all match long and kept her from scoring. Fellow defenders Stephanie Terpening, Lauren Espeseth, Kendall Cody and Annie Fishback also helped keep the Panthers off the board in the second half. Cody and Espeseth helped out on Galvan, who often had to fight off two defenders.
"It wasn't so much that Mariana didn't get enough touches on the ball in the second half," explained Priory co-coach Henry Arredondo. "She was still dangerous and was receiving the b all in areas we wanted her to be effective. You also have to understand when the other team decides to double-mark a player and takes turns hitting her with no calls by the ref, it complicates our attacking scheme.
"I spoke to the ref at half and explained that Mariana was just called to the U-18 National Team and has to report to camp in Florida on Jan. 28, and we need to protect her; she's representing our country."
Galvan took some hits and dished a few, as well, always remaining a dangerous player on the field — as was Dahlkemper, who sent long passes to the wing in the second half, finding Jager a handful of times that produced good shots on goal that just missed.
Dahlkemper eventually took matters into her own hands, which usually produces good results for the Gators.
"Abby played an important role in the win and she deserves a lot of credit," Arredondo said. "SHP wanted it more and that was the difference."
Priory will get another crack at SHP and Dahlkemper on Feb. 10 before Dahlkemper departs for national team camp. That puts a priority on the season for Moffat.
"Our goal is to win league before that Menlo game (on Feb. 15)," Moffat said.
Menlo, meanwhile, put itself in position to possibly take over first place — the Knights needed to beat SHP on Thursday — by scoring three second-half goals to beat host Castilleja at Mayfield Soccer Complex.
Menlo senior Kelly Cavan connected from 20 yards out off an assist from Alex Tom for what proved to be the winning goal. A few minutes later, Cavan scored again from 23 yards out following a pass from Amanda McFarland. Menlo freshman Sienna Stritter finished the scoring with a 15-yard strike off an assist from Sophia King.
Menlo coach Donoson FitzGerald singled out defender Shannon Lacy and his goalie tandem of sophomores Julia Dressel and Kelly McConnell for their fourth straight shutout.
In a WBAL Skyline Division match, Adrienne Whitlock scored off an assist from Danielle Man in the first half as Pinewood (2-2, 7-6) produced a 1-0 victory over visiting Eastside Prep.
In the PAL Bay Division, visiting Menlo-Atherton got second-half goals from Gillian Collom and Victoria Fernandez in a 2-0 victory over Hillsdale. The Bears (3-3-1, 8-3-2) remained tied with Carlmont for fifth place, trailing co-leaders Woodside and San Mateo, both 5-1-1.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Gunn battled defending division champion Los Gatos to a scoreless draw on Wednesday evening. The Titans moved to 1-3-2 in league and 6-4-4 overall. Gunn had two good chances to score, one a cross from Bonnie Cardillo that Hal Moalem nearly finished. The other came on a breakaway by Sarah Robinson that nearly found the net.
"It was a team effort," said Gunn coach Damian Cohen. "Everyone played excellent games, played stellar defense, and combined nicely in the attack. We have played back-to-back excellent games (Gunn tied Sacred Heart Prep on Saturday) and thus are starting to find a groove and consistency."
The scheduled SCVAL De Anza Division match between Mountain View and host Palo Alto was postponed when no referees were available.
With more ties than victories in league play, Palo Alto coach Don Briggs was hoping for a break when his squad took on first-place Mountain View in a SCVAL De Anza Division match on Wednesday.
The Vikings did finally get a break, but it wasn't the one the Vikings were looking for.
Junior goalie Kris Hoglund suffered a broken leg during a collision in the first half of Palo Alto's 2-2 deadlock with the Spartans. He will be lost for the remainder of the soccer season and will miss the lacrosse season, as well.
Hoglund had his leg casted on Thursday. According to his father, Tom, the cast might be hot pink.
Kris suffered a broken tibia, but his fibula was no broken.
"Any way you look at it, he will miss lacrosse season," said Tom Hoglund, "which makes no one happy. Fortunately, he should be able to still play during the summer and pursue his hope of playing East in college."
Hoglund, last season's leading scorer for Paly, had been sharing time in goal with Austin Shiau, who also is injured. After Hoglund was hurt, senior Tony Panayides traded in his game jersey for the goalie jersey and helped keep the Vikings (2-0-4, 6-2-5) in the game. It was Paly's fourth straight tie in league play and second in two days, following a 1-1 match with Los Gatos on Tuesday.
"This was a tough game for Paly, having played a physical game with Los Gatos," said Briggs. "Paly started the game with four subs and ended the game with only two players available (off the bench) after injuries to Hoglund and Peter Laminette."
Mountain View took the lead in the second half on a direct-kick deflection off Panayides. Palo Alto made it 1-1 on a direct kick by John Richardson. The Spartans regained the lead in the final 10 minutes when a hard cross was slightly deflected by a Paly defender and went into the upper corner. Paly got the game-tying goal when Austin Smith flicked a header to James Maa, whose header found the net.
"Gerritt Van Zyll did an excellent job of organizing the defense with two starting backs also injured an unable to play," Briggs said of his junior center back.
In a makeup match Tuesday, Paly's Skyler Felt took a pass from Richardson and scored to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead over host Los Gatos. That ended a streak of 2 1/2 games where Paly and Los Gatos had played scoreless ball. The Vikings, however, couldn't capitalize on other opportunities. Los Gatos ended up scoring in the final minute off a deflected pass.
In another SCVAL De Anza Division match, visiting Gunn dropped a 2-1 decision to Los Gatos. The Titans fell to 1-3-2 in league (2-7-4 overall).
In the West Bay Athletic League, Sacred Heart Prep maintained its hold on first place with a 7-1 victory over host Crystal Springs on Wednesday. The Gators (6-0-1, 11-0-1) got two goals from sophomore Willy Lamb and one each from Jack Odell, Will Mishra, Max Polkinhorne, Andrew Liotta and Robert Ojeda while Christian Thaure and Liotta each had a pair of assists. The Gators now have outscored the opposition this season, 54-7.
In other WBAL action, Priory edged Harker, 1-0, while Eastside Prep (1-4, 3-7-1) dropped a 1-0 decision to host King's Academy.
In the PAL Bay Division, Phillip Witham scored an unassisted goal in the second half to lift host Menlo-Atherton to a 1-0 victory over Westmoor. The Bears improved to 5-1-1 in league (7-2-2 overall) and remained just two points behind first-place Burlingame (6-1) in the division race.