Lee has been upgrading her schedule over the years, trying to find the toughest early season opponents possible in order to prepare her team for the rest of the season.
For 2012, Lee lined up Carondelet, Amador Valley and Monte Vista (Danville) to start the year. In the latest state rankings by laxpower.com, Carondelet is No. 2, Amador Valley is No. 5 and Monte Vista is No. 8.
Menlo also dropped a nonleague match to visiting Cherry Creek, the No. 2-ranked team in the state of Colorado.
A tough early season has paid off with a 68-17 record over the past four years and included three straight West Bay Athletic League crowns and one in the PAL (in 2008).
While the Knights are 7-4 heading into spring break next week, they are 7-0 against teams from the Central Coast Section and are ranked No. 9 in the state.
Menlo will have three more matches before facing host St. Ignatius (ranked No. 6 in the state) on April 26. That will be the Knights' final real test of the season. Defending their WBAL playoff crown should not be a problem as Menlo already has wins over No. 15 Poway (San Diego), No. 21 Palo Alto, No. 35 St. Francis (Mountain View) and two over No. 37 St. Francis (Sacramento).
The win over Poway was Wednesday, a 15-14 thriller that wasn't secured until junior Michaela Michael scored with just nine seconds to play. Poway has an enrollment of 2,600 students while Menlo has approximately 550.
"I am thrilled with the win, for sure," said Lee. "It got a little hairy/scary at the end."
Michael finished with nine goals and two assists to set season, game and team highs with 11 points.
Michael, who already has committed to USC, finished a two-win week with 18 points and raised her season totals to 85 goals and 16 assists in 11 regulation games and one tournament day. According to MaxPreps, Michael ranks No. 2 in the U.S. in goals and No. 3 in total points (101). She leads the state in goals.
Poway and Menlo battled winds that gusted to 30 miles an hour. Poway grabbed an early 3-0 lead but Menlo tied it at 3 with 14:53 left in the half. Poway went up 5-3 before Menlo tied it again as Michael scored her fourth straight goal. Michael added one more in the first half as Menlo surged to a 10-6 lead.
In the second half, Poway mounted an attack, and brought it within two in the first five minutes of the half. Menlo seemed to be pulling away at 14-9 with 13:25 left in the game —three goals coming from Michael and one from senior Annie Taylor. Then, Poway turned it on with five unanswered goals to tie the match and set up Michael for the game-winning shot.
The Menlo defense welcomed back goalie Hannah Rubin, who had been out with the flu but made many key stops.
Not counting numbers from their efforts at Western States event last Saturday (39g, 14a), the Knights have outscored their opponents by 49 goals this season.
On Saturday, Menlo went 4-0 and captured their division at the annual Western States CIF Lacrosse Tournament on a rainy day at the Morgan Hill Sports Complex. The results are not included on the Knights' overall record, due to rain-shortened matches.
Menlo won for the fourth consecutive time since it has participated in the event — including 2008, 2010 and 2011. The Knights opened with an 11-2 win over Menlo-Atherton before topping St. Francis (Sacramento), 10-5. In a semifinal shortened by rain and a revised schedule, Menlo defeated Sacred Heart Prep, 11-1. In the championship match, the Knights edged St. Francis (Sacramento) again, this time by only 7-6.
Michael led the way with 17 goals and four assists for 21 points on the day. Workhorses in the midfield were senior Kacie Madeira (four goals, three assists) and junior Ali Kim (five goals, six assists).
Rubin had some big stops, stuffs, deflections and pure stick saves against all four opponents —all while battling the flu.
On the other side of the tournament, Castilleja defeated Thacher School of Ojai, 5-1, for that division's title.
Castilleja carried the momentum from that victory into Tuesday's WBAL match at Sacred Heart Prep, pulling off a 17-16 shocker.
Castilleja senior Martha Harding scored 10 goals and junior Katherine Hobbs added five, producing the winning goal right off the draw with 16 seconds to play.
Senior Suparna Jasuja and freshman Lou Biffar each tallied one goal for the Gators while sophomore goalie Rebecca Merenbach made 12 outstanding saves.
"It was a huge win for us," said Castilleja coach Claire Mancini, whose team recorded its first win over SHP in three years. "The game came down to the last minute."
Jasuja scored the tying goal on a free-position shot with 33 seconds remaining in the match, setting up the winning goal by Hobbs.
It was a battle of CCS champions on Tuesday night in the Cupertino Host Lions Club Tournament at PAL Stadium in San Jose. When all was said and done, defending Division III champ Menlo School prevailed over Division II's Monterey.
The Knights didn't secure their 6-5 victory until junior Adam Greenstein produced a no-out single with runners on first and third in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The triumph moved Menlo (9-4) into Friday's championship game (7 p.m.) at PAL Stadium against the winner of Thursday's game between Mitty and Carlmont.
The last-inning dramatics began for Menlo when Mikey Diekroeger reached base on an error and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Dylan Mayer that was thrown away at first, allowing Mayer to reach base.
That set the stage for Greenstein, who was coming off a four-hit game in Monday's 17-2 romp over Santa Clara. Greenstein had only one hit in this game, but it was the game-winner.
The Knights also got some big hits from senior Freddy Avis, who singled in the first and slammed a solo homer in the third. In was his third home run in as many games.
Menlo junior lefthander Jack Redman earned his first varsity victory by allowing just one walk in 2 2/3 inning of relief after replacing starter Austin Marcus in the fifth.
In Rancho Cordova, Menlo-Atherton earned the right to play for its second straight title at the Cordova Easter Tournament after edging Rio Linda, 2-0, on Wednesday. The Bears (13-3) won their fourth straight in the tourney.
Menlo-Atherton starter Nick Lange pitched a complete-game one-hitter with nine strikeouts, missing a perfect game when an attempted shoestring catch in centerfield was dropped for an error in the sixth inning.
Lange moved to 4-0 on the season thanks to his own two hits, which accounted for both runs.
On Tuesday, Menlo-Atherton won a pair of games — 10-2 over Mesa Verde (Citrus Heights) and 4-1 over Foothill (Sacramento).
In the first game, M-A got a combined two-hitter from Dylan Cook and James Kollar-Gasiewski, who limited the Mavericks to just one earned run. Lange led M-A at the plate with a double and three RBI.
In the second game, sophomore Erik Amundson pitched five innings and struck out six in addition to helping himself with two hits, including a double. Foothill, which committed eight errors, managed just one hit as the Bears' pitching staff allowed just three hits in the doubleheader sweep.
In nonleague action Wednesday, Palo Alto scored three runs in the top of the seventh and then held on to post a 4-3 victory over host St. Ignatius on Wednesday at Fairmont Field in San Francisco.
The Vikings (14-2-1) took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh, withstanding a three-run inning by the Wildcats (10-4-1) to win for the eighth time in the past nine outings.
Palo Alto managed only two hits in the game, by Clay Carey and B.J. Boyd, but took advantage of two SI errors, five walks and seven stolen bases (two by Boyd). Boyd and John Dickerson each drove in a run.
Kevin Kannappan started for Paly and pitched 5 1/2 scoreless innings of four-hit ball. Rohit Ramkumar was touched for three runs on three hits in the bottom of the seventh before Ben Sneider came on to end the SI threat and preserve the victory.
Palo Alto will take on Westmont in another nonleague game Saturday at San Jose Municipal (6 p.m.) before entering the Elite 8 Invitational beginning Tuesday at St. Francis.
Menlo School bounced back from an upset loss to Burlingame on Saturday to edge host Los Gatos, 8-7, in a SCVAL De Anza Division match on Tuesday night.
The Knights (4-3, 6-3) held a 6-5 lead entering the fourth quarter and held off the Wildcats.
Wiley Osborne scored four goals and Nick Schultz added three goals and two assists for Menlo. Ryan Grzejka also scored for the Knights while Shuheit Nakata and Jack Ferguson combined to win 11 of 18 face-offs.
Sacred Heart Prep got 20 kills and 12 digs from Ian Bennett during a 26-24, 25-17, 23-25, 25-9 victory over visiting Fremont in a SCVAL El Camino Division match on Wednesday. Justin Morris added 34 assists and eight digs as the Gators improved to 3-3 in league (5-6 overall). Libero Grant Chou contributed 22 digs to the winning effort.