Sacred Heart Prep's competition in those days usually included Fremont Christian, Valley Christian-Dublin and Monte Vista Christian — teams the Gators rarely, if ever, face these days.
Sacred Heart won its last Division III title in 2006, finished second in '07 and moved to the West Bay Athletic League for the 2008-09 season.
Since then, the Gators have yet to enjoy the kind of success it once had in section play.
"Our ultimate goal/dream is to win CCS," said SHP coach Armando del Rio, who once starred for the Gators in their fall days. "But, our program has not won a game in the postseason since moving to the winter. It is early in the season and, right now, we are focused on doing our best to reach the postseason — and this involves trying to win our league."
The Gators took a small step in that direction on Wednesday with a 3-0 victory over host Menlo School in the WBAL opener for both teams. Sophomore standout Isaac Polkinhorne scored two goals for SHP and Robert Hellman added the other, plus an assist, all in the first half as the Gators improved to 4-0-2 overall.
Menlo (0-1, 3-1-2) bounced back in the second half, settling down to keep the Gators from adding to their total.
"Due to our academic calendar, we gave our team the entire (holiday) break off," del Rio said. "So, we are coming off just two days practice after a long break, as is Menlo. I was happy with our team performance, away in a rivalry game, in our first league match under difficult circumstances. I felt we had very good sequences of total team possession, created very good opportunities, and scored very good goals.
"It was not a perfect game; there are certainly areas for improvement for us to be sharper and better. Being so early on, I am happy about where we are."
Sacred Heart went 17-2-1 last season, losing in the first round of the CCS Division III playoffs despite outscoring the competition, 90-11, during a 17-1-1 regular season. The Gators graduated seven seniors with three others not returning — including offensive standout Joseph Bolous, who is now at a soccer academy.
Ten players have returned and del Rio is excited at what he has seen from a group that features only three seniors — goalie Max Polkinhorne and field players Andrew Liotta and Daniel Clancy.
"I have tremendous confidence in this group, because this group has more fight, combativeness and grittiness," del Rio said. "This squad is embodying our new philosophy and culture shift — playing with a street-like courage/physicality, with a blue-collar mentality/work ethic. And, playing a good style of team soccer. Playing with these values is our main goal, and we feel it will create the path for more success."
With one Polkinhorne brother scoring goals and the other stopping them, the Gators have those bookends to build around. Hellman and fellow juniors Willy Lamb, Nicklaus Salzman, Brendan Spillane, Daniel Thaure, Grant Chou and Joe Callinan all saw plenty of first-half action against Menlo along with freshman Derek Chou.
Along with the unbeaten record, del Rio is particularly pleased with the senior leadership of Liotta and Max Polkinhorne, both of whom start.
"Two excellent players with tremendous experience, but who work hard, treat others with respect and exemplify what it means to be a mature high schooler. They really are instrumental to our team outlook and assisting in our program culture shift."
Something else working for the Gators is del Rio's facial hair.
"Since I had facial hair during preseason for men's awareness month (in November), the guys decided I have to keep the hair for our first game and, if we win, I have to keep it until we lose," del Rio said. "So, it is a gift and a curse. It looks horrible, feels horrible, but it means things are going well."
In other boys' soccer action Wednesday:
Palo Alto continued its struggles while dropping a 4-1 decision to visiting Homestead in a SCVAL De Anza Division opener. The Mustangs (1-0, 4-4-1) took the lead quickly with a three goals in the first 20 minutes, with their final goal coming midway in the second half.
Paly (0-1, 0-7-2) averted a shutout when junior Paul Stefanski took a pass down the left sideline and had a 1 on 1 with the Homestead keeper before finishing off the unassisted goal.
In the WBAL, Pinewood dropped a 5-1 decision to visiting Harker.
Palo Alto opened its SCVAL De Anza Division season by rallying for a 1-1 deadlock with longtime nemesis Monta Vista in a match played at Homestead High.
The Matadors (0-0-1, 4-2-2) grabbed a 1-0 lead on a corner kick in the 10th minute and could have extended it 10 minutes later, but Paly keeper Erin Chang made a great save to keep the deficit at one goal.
After getting only four shots on goal in the first half, the Vikings (0-0-1, 2-2-3) came out in the second more aggressively. While a shot by Marina Foley was saved, the Vikings kept up the pressure and finally broke through a minute later when Katie Foug made a nice pass to Lily Seedman, who finished for the tying goal.
Both teams had their chances after that with Foley missing from the top of the 18-yard box. Paly's Emy Kelty foiled Monta Vista's final scoring opportunity by stealing the ball before time ran out. Chang finished with six saves.
On Tuesday, Sacred Heart Prep successfully opened defense of its WBAL (Foothill Division) title with a 3-0 victory over visiting Notre Dame-San Jose. The Gators (1-0, 3-2-3) got the winning goal in the first half on a penalty kick by Kendall Jager. She made it 2-0 in the second half before Alex Bourdillion (assist by Taylor Ruegg) wrapped up the scoring while dropping the Regents to 0-1 (2-4).
Palo Alto opened defense of its SCVAL De Anza Division title with a dominating defensive effort to shut down visiting Homestead, 46-20, on Wednesday night. It was the fewest points allowed by the Vikings (1-0, 10-1) this season. Senior Israel Hakim led Paly with 14 points while junior Aubrey Dawkins added 11 for the Vikings, who blanked the Mustangs in the third quarter.
In Sunnyvale, Menlo School used a 22-6 third quarter to roll to a 56-31 victory over the King's Academy in a WBAL opener. The Knights held a 24-18 halftime lead, but the second half was a different story.
Menlo sophomore guard Bobby Roth had 13 points, converting a trio of three-pointers, and nailing a 75-foot buzzer-beater at the half. Double-teamed all night, senior Richard Harris still finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Will Miller added 10 points and senior forward Freddy Avis chipped in with eight as the Knights improved to 7-3 overall. Menlo visits Harker on Friday.
In boys' basketball action Tuesday night, Sacred Heart Prep opened defense of its WBAL title with a 70-40 romp over host Crystal Springs in Hillsborough.
Matt McNamara poured in 19 points for the Gators (1-0, 7-2), who overcame a one-point first-quarter deficit with a 43-point second-half explosion. Senior guard Franklin Bird, who was averaging under one point a game, drained four 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 12 points for SHP while making the most of his first start of the season.
In San Jose, a perfect season came to an end for Eastside Prep in a 52-42 setback to host Harker in another WBAL. The Panthers brought a 10-0 record into the game and held a 9-8 first-quarter lead before Harker outscored them, 29-11, over the next two periods. Senior Bryan Walker led Eastside Prep (0-1, 10-1) with 16 points.
Palo Alto opened defense of its SCVAL De Anza Division title and cleared an early hurdle by handing previously unbeaten Lynbrook a 47-42 loss on Tuesday night in Paly's gym.
"We got out to a good lead in the first half and Lynbrook, to its credit, came back and made it a close game in the fourth quarter," said Paly coach Scott Peters.
Palo Alto (1-0, 8-2) held a 27-15 halftime lead but was outscored in the second half. Paly, however, was able to limit Lynbrook's top scorer, Jackie Hudepohl, to seven points as Lindsay Black and Josie Butler combined on the defensive effort.
"Lindsay Black was the player of the game," Peters said. "Lindsay's energy and effort sparked us both defensively and offensively. She held their best player and leading scorer, Jackie Hudepohl, scoreless in the first half."
Black also led the Vikings with 14 points while the 6-2 Butler scored eight points and grabbed 10 rebounds with five blocks. Danielle Palmer added 11 points and Stephanie Allen contributed 10.
"Josie is starting to really put her offensive game together," said Peters, "whether it is driving to the basket, passing to the post or shooting the three. She is getting better every game.
"I like the fact that we are not a one-weapon team and that on any night a different player can come through to help us be successful. Lynbrook looked to stop Emilee Osagiede with a sagging help defense and that created other openings for our other weapons such as Black, Butler, Danielle Palmer and Stephanie Allen to take advantage of for scoring opportunities. Having multiple offensive players who are all comfortable in scoring situations makes us a very hard team to cover.:
In other games Tuesday:
Tennyson Jellins tossed in 19 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and had three blocks to pace Menlo-Atherton to a solid 49-41 victory over host Sacred Heart Prep in nonleague action.
The Bears (5-8) grabbed an early lead and held on as the Gators rallied behind an 18-point outburst by Helen Gannon, who got her team to within 43-39 with under two minutes to play. SHP, however, was just 5-for-27 from three-point range while starting virtually an all-guard lineup.
In Los Altos Hills, Pinewood battled back from a 10-point deficit entering the fourth quarter and rallied for a 43-40 nonleague victory over visiting Mercy-Burlingame.
The Panthers (10-4) hit five 3-pointers in the final period while tallying 23 points and averting the upset. Kelly Doran, one of only two Pinewood seniors, scored all of her 10 points in the second half with sophomore teammate Leeana Bade adding eight points as the Panthers bounced back from losing the Leo LaRocca Sand Dune Classic title last week.
On Wednesday, Sacred Heart Prep gave up 49 points for the second straight game and, for the second straight time, it cost the Gators a victory as they dropped a 49-47 nonleague decision to San Mateo.
SHP fell to Menlo-Atherton on Tuesday, 49-41. The Gators (8-4) gave up a last-second basket this time, erasing a solid effort that included eight 3-pointers — three by Kelsey Hemm. Amanda Suzuki led the way with 12 points while Hemm and Melissa Holland added 11 each.
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