Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - February 14, 2014

Two titles already clinched

Menlo girls, SHP boys put finishing touches on league crowns

by Keith Peters

The Menlo School girls have a week off while the Sacred Heart Prep boys still have three matches remaining. The two soccer teams, however, do have something in common other than being neighbors.

Both are league champions.

Sacred Heart Prep earned its sixth straight West Bay Athletic League crown two days early as the Gators' 6-0 victory over visiting Pinewood was coupled with second-place Menlo School's 2-1 loss to King's Academy. SHP has 33 points and can't be caught.

The Menlo girls, meanwhile, captured their third straight WBAL Foothill Division title on Tuesday following a 2-1 win over host Priory. The Knights needed a win or tie to secure the crown.

Menlo coach Donoson FitzGerald made one thing perfectly clear to his girls before they took on Priory.

"You're either the champs tomorrow or the co-champs," he said. "You can't wait until halftime or when they get a goal up to decide whether you want this."

While Menlo did go scoreless in the first half, the Knights stepped up their game after that and pulled out the victory. The Knights finished their regular season 11-0-1, their first unbeaten league season since at least 1991. The Knights' 15-3-2 overall mark, meanwhile, equals the win total of the 2012 squad that won the Central Coast Section Division III title. With the section playoffs still to come, Menlo stands on improving that record to the best in program history.

"A very nice accomplishment," FitzGerald said of the 11-0-1 mark that saw Menlo outscore opponents 42-3.

The win over Priory arguably was Menlo's most difficult, given the title ramifications and the fact that Priory had beaten the Knights in Portola Valley the past two seasons — thus ruining unbeaten league seasons.

"I just knew it was going to be tough," said FitzGerald, in his 25th season at Menlo. "This is a tough play to play."

Priory's smaller, muddy grass field always is a great equalizer. Thus, Menlo practiced Monday on its grass football field to prepare.

After a scoreless first half that saw Menlo struggle to get good shots while Priory held its own — each team just missed goals with under 7:10 to play — the teams alternated goals after intermission.

Menlo took the lead with under 30 minutes to play when a corner kick by senior Chandler Wickers was controlled by freshman Claire McFarland, who found junior Jamie Corley for the goal.

Priory (5-5-1, 6-9-1) got the equalizer when freshman Alicia Talancon spun around a defender and launched a shot that escaped Menlo sophomore keeper Schulyer Tilney-Volk for a 1-1 match.

Wickers and senior Sienna Stritter teamed up for the winning goal with around 17 minutes left in the match. Wickers sent a corner kick into a mass of bodies in front of the cage, with the ball being kicked around until Stritter got a foot on it and found the netting.

Tilney-Volk helped preserve the lead when she rushed out of the goal during a one-on-one with Priory's Brenda Uribe and stopped the attempt with a sliding save.

The Menlo players were well aware of their past two visits to Priory and made sure the Panthers didn't get a three-peat.

"Last year, to end on a loss was really tough," Stritter said. "We lost momentum going into CCS."

Menlo also suffered some crippling injuries in that loss, and exited the section playoffs in the semifinals with three starters on crutches. While senior Emma LaPorte missed Tuesday's match with a concussion suffered last week, the Knights are in much better shape than a year ago.

The Sacred Heart Prep boys are in pretty good shape, as well, after wrapping up the title with three matches still to play.

"This league title is very meaningful to us/me," said SHP head coach Armando del Rio. "We have been unbeaten (in league) the past three years, but we have never won all of them."

In his fourth season, del Rio is 47-1-5 in league play. The Gators' only loss came to King's Academy on Feb. 16, 2011. SHP's last perfect WBAL season came in 2010 when Matt Dodge guided the Gators to a 12-0 mark.

"To me, it's imperative to continue training at our best every day, and playing to our highest standard while balancing adequate rest for optimal performance for CCS," del Rio said. "If we have this approach, I believe it is possible to win every league game, but anything is possible. Our goal is to be sharp, and prepare fully to win each day."

Seniors Will Mishra and Andrew Segre combined on the first two goals against Pinewood with Mishra getting the goals. Isaac Polkinhorne made it a 4-0 match with assists from fellow senior Frankie Hattler. Senior Brian White made it 5-0 with Hattler assisting while Segre scored off an assist from Polkinhorne to wrap things up.

Girls

Sacred Heart Prep, meanwhile, wrapped up second place in the WBAL Foothill Division with a 5-0 win over visiting Notre Dame-San Jose on Tuesday afternoon. The Gators (9-1-1, 15-2-2) wrapped up league play Thursday.

Freshman Olivia Athens gave SHP a 2-0 halftime lead with goals in the 14th and 37th minutes on assists from sophomore Tierna Davidson. In the second half, Davidson scored unassisted in the 48th minute and again in the 53rd minute with junior Christine Callinan assisting. Blair Hamilton finished the scoring in the 72nd minute.

In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton (5-4-2, 9-4-4) saw its hopes for an automatic berth into the CCS playoffs fade away following a 2-0 loss to first-place Burlingame.

In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Palo Alto finds itself tied for first place and has a legitimate shot at winning the division title following a 1-0 victory over host Homestead on Wednesday.

The Vikings improved to 6-2-3 (21 points) in league (9-4-4 overall) and earned a tie for the top spot with Los Altos (6-1-3, 21 points), which battled Mountain View (5-0-5, 20 points) to a scoreless draw.

Palo Alto has one match remaining, at home on Friday (3:30 p.m.) against fourth-place Los Gatos (6-3-1, 19 points). Should the Vikings win, they'll finish with 24 points.

Los Altos, however, has two matches left and could win the title with a win and a tie against Homestead and Los Gatos. The Eagles could finish with 27 points. Mountain View also could pass Paly and finish with 26, while Los Gatos could help relegate Paly all the way to fourth with a victory on Friday.

Palo Alto at least gave itself a shot by topping Homestead, which handed Los Gatos a 4-2 loss last week. After playing to a scoreless tie in the first half, the Vikings finally broke through when Aoi Sugihara found Sunny Lyu, who lobbed a shot over the head of the Mustangs' keeper, who had come out to the top of the penalty box.

Paly finished with 17 shots and 13 steals while keeper Dhara Yu earned the shutout.

In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Gunn battled visiting Santa Clara to a 1-1 deadlock. The Bruins grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first half before the Titans (7-2-3, 10-3-4) battled back to tie on a goal by Caroline Anderson with the assist from Megan Kuhnle.

Gunn has finished its regular season and now awaits the CCS seeding meeting the following weekend.

Boys

Menlo saw any hopes of a possible title disappear in its loss to visiting King's Academy. The Knights (7-3-1, 22 points) dropped to third place behind King's (8-2-2, 26 points) with three matches remaining. Only the top two teams are guaranteed berths in the CCS playoffs.

King's struck first, scoring in the seventh minute. The teams held each other at bay for the rest of the half. Menlo emerged from halftime with a renewed energy, firing several shots. Nearly five minutes into the second half, Michael Quezada played the free kick, which Justin Wang sent into the net amid a sea of players in front of the goal to tie the game, 1-1. TKA scored the winner with 3:20 left in the match.

Menlo junior Peter Rosston and sophomore Keaton Shiveley had standout efforts in central midfield.

In the PAL Bay Division, visiting Menlo-Atherton got a second-half goal from sophomore Jorge Lopez, with an assist from Mario Rodrigeuz, as the Bears posted a 1-0 victory over Aragon. M-A moved to 7-2-2 in league (10-3-2 overall) and remained in second place heading into Thursday's match at third-place Woodside. The Bears need only one more win to wrap up second place since Woodside can finish with only 24 points.

In the SCVAL De Anza Division, host Palo Alto posted a 4-3 victory over Fremont. The Vikings (3-4-4, 7-7-5) grabbed a 1-0 lead when sophomore Rueben Kramer followed up a blocked shot with a header. Fremont tied the match shortly thereafter.

Kramer gave Paly the lead again when he took a pass from freshman striker Jack Stoksik and calmly placed it into the lower-right corner. Just before the half, senior Cina Vazir took a Fremont defensive miscue and had a one v. one with the Fremont keeper before scoring for a 3-1 advantage. In the second half, Paly junior Steven Blatman took a Kramer diving header and placed it past the Fremont keeper to go up 4-1.

Paly kicked off Senior Day by honoring seniors Cina Vazir, Neal Biswas and goalie Tony Maharaj for their strong three-year contribution to the program. The Viking, who remained in fourth place, need at least a tie against first-place Los Gatos on Friday to be eligible for the CCS playoffs.

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