Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - February 21, 2014

Palo Alto girls now playing a waiting game

by Keith Peters

After 19 matches, the Palo Alto girls will now play a waiting game to see if their soccer team will continue or end. The Vikings don't have to wait that long.

The seeding meeting for the Central Coast Section playoffs will be this weekend. At that time, Palo Alto should get some good news, despite finishing fourth in the highly competitive SCVAL De Anza Division this season.

The Vikings, who were tied for first place on Feb. 12, fell all the way to fourth place in just one week despite tying its final match last Friday with Los Gatos. That tie meant Paly needed a Los Altos victory or tie over Los Gatos on Wednesday to keep the Vikings in third place — thus earning an automatic berth into the section playoffs.

However, that didn't happen. The Eagles, with four starters visiting colleges, dropped a 3-0 decision to the Wildcats. Mountain View ended up winning the division with 26 points, Los Altos was second with 24, Los Gatos finished third with 23 and Paly wound up fourth with 22.

Palo Alto ended the division season with an 0-2-4 record against the top three teams. Just one victory would have vaulted the Vikings into third place.

Palo Alto, which won the SCVAL El Camino Division title last season, put the finishing touches on its solid campaign (10-4-5 thus far) with a 5-0 victory Tuesday over visiting King's Academy, the defending CCS Division III champion.

The win was a good way to celebrate Senior Day as Jess Branson, Sunny Lyu, Megan Tall and Julia Kwasnick wrapped up their regular-season careers.

Branson took five shots in the first 10 minutes, but it would take Palo Alto (10-4-5) 23 minutes to crack the King's Academy defense. When the Vikings did, they struck three times in three minutes.

Aoi Sugihara scored unassisted from 25 yards out with a ball just over the goalie's outstretched arms for a 1-0 lead. Just after that, freshman Natalie Maloney subbed in and immediately contributed when Alison Lu fed her a pass inside the 18-yard box that Maloney promptly put in for Paly's second goal. Lu was quickly rewarded for her assist when Katie Foug passed to her at 10 yards out and Lu scored for a 3-0 match.

With 10 minutes remaining in the half, Jacey Pederson stole the ball at 35 yards out and, after some dazzling footwork and ball control, laced a shot past the goalie for a 4-0 lead that Paly would take to intermission.

Two minutes into the second half, Tall earned a corner for Palo Alto. After the ball-in from Sugihara was deflected out by the goalie, Maloney returned the volley, scoring from 15 yards out.

In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton will be seeking an at-large berth for the upcoming CCS playoffs following a 0-0 deadlock with host Hillsdale on Tuesday. The Bears were 6-4-3 in league (21 points) and had no chance of catching the top three with only Thursday's home match against first-place Woodside (9-2-2) remaining.

M-A's road woes continued at Hillsdale as the Bears (10-4-5 overall) remained winless in their past six road matches. M-A has won only once away from home, that coming to last-place Sequoia. Hillsdale, meanwhile, was a team the Bears defeated by 5-2 at home earlier in the season.

Boys

Sacred Heart Prep moved to within a victory of its first perfect season since 2010 with a 5-1 victory over host Priory in West Bay Athletic League action Wednesday.

The first-place Gators (13-0, 14-4-1) jumped ahead on a goal by Will Mishra, assisted by fellow senior Ricky Grau. The Panthers tied it up with on a penalty kick by Austin Mirabella to send the match to halftime.

After intermission, Mishra's penalty kick provided the eventual winning score. Fellow senior Andrew Segre made it 3-1 on an assist from junior Philip Petrakian and senior goalie came out of the cage to make it 4-1 on an assist from Mishra. Junior Sebi Surraco wrapped up the four-goal second half with an unassisted goal.

In Hillsborough, Menlo School beat host Crystal Springs, 5-4, to move closer to their second consecutive CCS playoff berth.

The Knights (9-3-1, 11-5-3) were quickly on top as sophomore striker Will Chisholm got the ball from senior captain John Strong and rifled a fierce left-footed shot into the top corner from 25 yards out to put Menlo ahead. Strong doubled the lead midway through the half when he beat the Gryphons' keeper to a ball from sophomore striker Tyler McGraw and slotted it into the empty net.

A few minutes later, senior forward Kevin Walker extended the lead when he followed up a shot from sophomore midfielder Peter Rosston that struck the crossbar and headed it home. Crystal Springs pulled a goal back right before the half on a stunning free kick.

Menlo started the second half similarly to the first and quickly added to its lead. After some neat passing in midfield, sophomore defender Andrew Arnold served a teasing ball into the box that Rosston flicked on to Strong at the back post. Strong made no mistake, volleying the ball high into the net past the keeper. A minute later the lead was stretched to 5-1 when McGraw received a pass from sophomore defender Michael Quezada at midfield, turned his defender and beat the keeper from 35 yards out.

The Knights rotated their squad as the game wound down and almost paid for it as the Gryphons scored three goals, all off set pieces. Crystal Springs pulled within one with a few minutes left, which made for a nervy finish. But, Menlo ultimately saw out the game and got the three points its performance deserved.

In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton took a backward step in its postseason preparation with a 2-1 loss to host Sequoia on Wednesday. Kori Smith gave the Bears (8-3-2, 11-4-2) a 1-1 halftime deadlock before the Cherokees scored the winner after intermission. Menlo-Atherton will wrap up its regular season on Friday by hosting Burlingame. The Bears already have locked up second place and a berth in the CCS playoffs.

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