One of those arrived on Wednesday as the Bears hosted first-place Woodside with an opportunity to force a two-way deadlock for the top spot with a victory.
Despite taking an early lead, the Bears had to battle back just to gain a 2-2 tie with the Wildcats in the first of two PAL Bay Division matches between the rivals.
The Bears went to 4-1-2 in league while the Wildcats moved to 5-0-2 (8-1-4). Woodside now has 17 points and remains in first place in the division while M-A remained in second with 14 points as the first half of league play ended.
"I definitely think a few more minutes and we would've been able to punch a game-winner in," said Pickard. "I think a draw is certainly a fair result for both teams having good spells and bad spells."
The Bears (7-2-2 overall) started off on a strong note when sophomore Jorge Lopez scored a goal on a penalty kick 24 seconds into the game after senior Elvis Abarca was fouled in the box. Lopez wound up scoring both of Menlo-Atherton's goals.
"It's not a game about one person," said Lopez. "I just tried to do my best — I got a lot of help from my team."
Menlo-Atherton later lost Abarca for the game, and likely the season, when he was helped off the field in the first half due to a torn ACL.
In the second half, Woodside junior Eduardo Guerrero made a head shot goal with an assist from senior Salvador Herrera, tying the game at 1-1.
Seven minutes after the Wildcats' first goal, Herrera came through again for Woodside and scored on a penalty kick giving Woodside the 2-1 lead.
With 2:00 to go in the game, Woodside senior Kevin Amaya was charged with a tripping penalty on Lopez. The M-A sophomore was given a direct kick from about 25 yards out and nailed it into the upper right corner to tie the game at 2.
"He comes up when we need him," Pickard said of Lopez, who has scored eight goals in the past four matches. "It was really nice to have a person step up in place of Elvis (Abarca), who unfortunately tore his ACL. I'm glad the boys were able to get some sort of result for him."
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Palo Alto saw its offensive struggles continue as the Vikings opened the second half of league play with a 1-1 deadlock with visiting Los Altos.
Palo Alto (1-3-3, 5-6-4) was in control for the first 20 minutes until Los Altos took a ball down the end line and made a nice cross that was nailed into the lower left corner for a 1-0 lead. Los Altos then picked up its game and had several more chances until Paly's Ed Chen beat Los Altos' left back and curved a cross the Sid Srinivasan, who then headed it up into the upper corner to deadlock the match. The rest of the half was well- played by Paly.
The second half went back and forth with both teams having chances. Los Altos continued to apply the pressure. Thanks to Paly keeper Tony Maharaj, no more scores took place. Los Altos hit the crossbar on a corner kick and the left post on a defensive miscue.
In the West Bay Athletic League, Sacred Heart Prep got three goals in the first half and remained atop the league standings with a 4-2 victory over visiting King's Academy.
Isaac Polkinhorne, Cam Chapman and Will Mishra provided the goals before intermission with assists coming from Ricky Grau, Polkinhorne and Frankie Hattler as the Gators (7-0, 8-4-1) grabbed a 3-1 lead. The Knights closed to within 3-2 with a goal to open the second half before senior Andrew Segre scored off an assist from Polkinhorne to wrap things up.
In Portola Valley, Menlo School got a late goal from sophomore midfielder Matt Joss and made it stand up for a 1-0 WBAL victory over host Priory. The Knights improved to 5-1-1 in league and 7-3-3 overall, remaining in second place behind Sacred Heart Prep.
After both teams missed scoring opportunities in the first half, the Knights' perseverance ultimately paid off in the dying minutes. With Menlo pushing hard for a winner the ball fell outside the box to sophomore midfielder Keaton Shiveley, playing in his first game back after a three-week layoff due to injury. Shiveley served a dangerous ball into the box and Joss was first to react, rising high to head the ball into the side netting. The Knights saw out the remaining few minutes to claim the crucial victory.
Senior midfielder Sienna Stritter had three goals to lead host Menlo School to a 5-0 victory over King's Academy in WBAL Foothill Division action on Tuesday.
The Knights improved to 6-0-1 in league (10-3-2 overall) and remained mathematically tied for first place with Sacred Heart Prep (5-0-1, 11-1-2), which picked up a forfeit win over Pinewood on Tuesday.
Menlo and Sacred Heart Prep met for a second time on Thursday, with sole possession of first place hanging in the balance. The teams tied in their first meeting.
On Tuesday, Menlo's only first-half goal came with just four minutes remaining in the first half on Stritter's 18-yard shot into the corner of the goal off an assist from junior Alexander Walker. Stritter's second goal came three minutes into the second half on a 15-yard unassisted shot.
Next, senior Chandler Wickers tallied from 10 yards out on an assist from senior Emma LaPorte in the seventh minute. Then Stritter completed her hat trick on a 12-yard blast off an assist from sophomore Zoe Enright in the 17th minute.
Freshman Claire McFarland scored in the 35th minute from close range off an assist from her sister, senior Claire. Sophomore keeper Schuyler Tilney-Volk and the Menlo team earned their sixth consecutive shutout.
Elsewhere in the WBAL Foothill Division, visiting Priory posted a 3-0 victory over Notre Dame-San Jose at Watson Park. Alicia Talancon scored an unassisted goal in the 28th minute for the winning tally. In the 55th minute, Erin Simpson scored ona penalty kick. Talancon finished the scoring in the 64th minute off an assist from Brenda Uribe.
Pinewood (2-6, 3-13) had to forfeit to SHP because the Panthers had only eight healthy players.
"As much as we don't like to do that, the circumstances were such that it wouldn't have made sense to confront Sacred Heart Prep, one of two uneaten teams in our league, with only eight players," said Pinewood coach Michael Tetzlaff.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton took a shot at first place and missed as the visiting Bears (4-2-1, 8-2-3) dropped a 3-0 decision to first-place Woodside (5-1-1, 10-1-2) as the Wildcats (16 points) opened a three-point lead over the Bears (13 points), who fell to fourth place.
Burlingame (4-0-3, 7-2-4), meanwhile, moved into second place (15 points) following a 1-0 win over San Mateo. Carlmont (4-1-2, 7-3-3) took over third with 14 points following a 4-0 win over Sequoia.
In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Gunn raced to a big first-half lead and rolled to a 4-1 triumph over visiting Fremont on Wednesday night.
The Titans (4-2-1, 7-3-2) grabbed an early lead when Natalie Perreault scored off an assist from Ming-Ming Liu. Lauren Johnston then provided the eventual winning goal with Megan Kuhnle assisting. Caroline Anderson assisted on Robin Waymouth's goal for a 3-0 lead before Perreault got her second goal with Anderson getting her second assist.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Palo Alto failed to gain ground in the race following a scoreless deadlock with host Los Altos. The teams also tied in their first meeting.
Los Altos came out strong and had the advantage for most of the half, playing very aggressive, but four offside calls kept them at bay. The Eagles best chance came off a corner kick, but Palo Alto keeper Dhara Yu made the save.
In the second half, it was Paly (3-1-3, 6-3-4) that came out strong and had advantage most of the half. At 11 minutes in, off a free kick, Jacey Pederson headed it on-frame but the Los Altos goalie reeled it in. Minutes later, Katie Foug placed a corner kick at Julia Kwasnick, but the LA keeper came out to intercept just in time. Both teams had several chances in the remaining minutes but neither team could score.