In the "modern" era of section soccer that saw Division III move to its current winter berth, Sacred Heart Prep hasn't been quite as successful. Four straight years in the playoffs have resulted in no victories. Thus, the quest continues.
Sacred Heart Prep will begin its fifth straight year in the CCS Division III postseason next week and will be joined by rival Menlo School. They won't be alone.
The girls' bracket will include automatic qualifiers Menlo, Priory, Sacred Heart Prep, Palo Alto and either Pinewood or King's Academy. For the boys, it's SHP, Menlo and possibly Palo Alto. The Menlo-Atherton boys and girls both will need an at-large berth to get in.
First-round action begins Tuesday and Wednesday with finals set for March 2 — at Oak Grove (boys) and Valley Christian (girls).
The Menlo, SHP and Palo Alto girls are past champions, as are the Paly boys. The SHP and Menlo boys would like to join that group some day. First, of course, they must win that first match.
"We've been trying to focus on this season, rather than past years in the CCS," said SHP boys' coach Armando del Rio.
"CCS, that's our new season," said Menlo first-year coach Marc Kerrest, who told his players the plan is to be playing after SHP is eliminated.
Should the teams meet in the postseason, Menlo will have to find a way to finally beat SHP. That hasn't happened since both schools began playing in the West Bay Athletic League in 2009. Since then, the Gators hold an 8-0-2 lead in the series.
That streak continued Wednesday as SHP wrapped up its fifth straight WBAL title with one match remaining in the regular season following a 2-0 victory.
The Gators improved to 11-0-2 in league (14-2-3 overall) while the Knights concluded their regular season at 9-3-2 (12-5-3) and in second place. Menlo needed a victory plus a SHP loss to King's Academy on Friday in order to tie the Gators for first place. Sacred Heart Prep, meanwhile, needed only a tie to claim the crown.
"We wanted to make sure we didn't share it," said del Rio, who now has won three consecutive league titles since taking over for Matt Dodge. "We didn't go into this game thinking we were going to tie."
Both SHP goals came after throw-ins, the first by Nick Salzman in the 31st minute of the first half on an assist by Ricky Grau. Matt Denton made the throw-in, which Grau volleyed to Salzman for the goal.
In the second half, Denton made another long throw-in that was first headed by Robert Hellman, who deflected it to Willy Lamb. He turned and rifled a hard shot past Menlo keeper Timmy Costa for a 2-0 advantage with just under eight minutes to play.
"It's a game of inches," said Kerrest. "They scored two goals on throw-ins; we didn't score goals . . . in the next game we have, if we make those mistakes we won't have another game."
In Portola Valley, host Priory wrapped up its season with a 3-2 victory over visiting Crystal Springs on Senior Day. After falling behind 1-0, Max Reines got the equalizer for the Panthers just before halftime.
Trailing 2-1 in the second half, Sergio Lopez assisted on a goal by Austin Mirabella for the tie. The game-winning goal came late in stoppage time when Joe Farned chipped a through ball to fellow senior captain Cesar Perez, who controlled the pass before sending an unstoppable volley into the side netting for the win.
In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Palo Alto capped its regular season with a 2-1 win over host Cupertino. After failing to win a single match last season in the SCVAL De Anza Division, the Vikings made a massive improvement to finish 8-3-1 in the El Camino.
The Vikings (13-5-2 overall) now will await for this weekend's seeding meeting to see if they have qualified for the CCS playoffs.
Cupertino grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute and made it hold up for the halftime lead. Paly got the equalizer from junior Cina Vazier at and the winner 10 minutes later when Vazir's shot bounced off the cross bar and senior Chris Meredith nailed a header into the upper right corner of the cage.
Alex Chin, Kirby Gee, Jacob Dorward, Steve Blatman, and Neal Biswah teamed together to limit Cupertino to two shots on goal in the game.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, visiting Gunn dropped a 1-0 decision to Mountain View. The Titans finished their season 3-8-1 in league (5-13-2 overall) and on a seven-match losing streak.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton (6-6-2, 9-7-3) wrapped up its regular season with a 2-0 loss to host Woodside. The Bears suffered a crucial 4-0 loss to San Mateo on Monday, which allowed the Bearcats to finish third and earn the final automatic berth.
In girls' soccer, Palo Alto put the finishing touches on a near-perfect season in the SCVAL El Camino Division with a 3-1 victory over visiting Cupertino on Wednesday. The Vikings got first-half goals from Heidi Moeser, Jacey Pederson and Isabelle Kelsey to finish 11-0-1 in league (13-4-2 overall) and on a 14-match unbeaten streak. Paly hasn't lost since Dec. 8.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Gunn most likely will switch places with Paly in the El Camino Division following a 4-0 lead to visiting Mountain View on Wednesday night. The Titans finished 2-9-1 in league (3-12-3 overall).
In the WBAL Foothill Division, Priory wrapped up second place with a 3-1 victory over two-time defending champion Menlo School on Tuesday in Portola Valley. The Panthers won their final four matches and had a six-match unbeaten streak to finish 6-2-4 in league (7-4-6 overall) while relegating Sacred Heart Prep (5-2-5) to third place.
The Knights, after clinching the division crown with four matches to play, finished up 2-1-1 and saw its streak of 21 straight WBAL victories end.
Mariana Galvan scored twice and Caitlin Teoman had two assists and one goal. Galvan will miss the CCS playoffs as she'll be training with Mexico's Under-20 National Team.
With a decisive 62-16 victory over visiting Eastside Prep on Tuesday, the Menlo clinched at least a share of the WBAL title. The Knights hold a 12-1 mark (16-7 overall) with a game remaining. A win Friday against visiting Crystal Springs (6:30 p.m.) will give Menlo its first WBAL title since 2009. Sacred Heart Prep is second at 11-2 following a win over Harker (10-3).
Menlo junior Jack Heneghan made all 10 of his field-goal attempts for 20 points as the team shot 84 percent from the field and 60 percent from three-point range as the Knights won their 12th straight.
In San Jose, Ricky Galliani poured in 24 points as Sacred Heart Prep extended the WBAL race to the final game of the regular season with a 52-51 win over host Harker. While the loss knocked the Eagles (10-3, 16-7) out of the title race, the win kept the Gators (11-2, 15-8) mathematically alive for the league title heading into Friday's regular-season finale against visiting Pinewood at 6:30 p.m.
In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Chris Russell scored 19 points and Patrick Skelly tallied 17 but Gunn (2-9, 5-17) still dropped a 79-67 decision to host Wilcox.
In the PAL South Division, host Menlo-Atherton finished the regular season with a 50-35 victory over Mills. The Bears (7-5, 11-13) got 10 points from Jamar Gaddis as they pulled into a three-way tie for third place with Mills and Sequoia.
Gunn saw its five-game win streak end and its title hopes disappear in the SCVAL De Anza Division following a 56-46 loss at Wilcox on Wednesday. The Titans (8-3, 15-6) were outscored 21-7 in the second quarter.
Olivia Tapia led Gunn with 18 points and six rebounds, all her points coming on three-pointers. Junior Zoe Zwerling added 10 points, six rebounds and two steals. Meghan Mahoney added eight points and eight rebounds for the Titans, who once again played without senior point guard Claire Klausner, sidelined by a reported case of mononucleosis.
In the WBAL playoffs, Castilleja saw its season come to an end following a 60-44 loss to Notre Dame-San Jose in the second round. The Gators (4-21) were led by sophomore Yasmeen Afifi's career-high 24 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.
In the PAL South Division, Menlo-Atherton finished its regular season with a 58-36 loss to host Mills. The Bears (7-5, 11-13) got 14 points from Emma Heath while dropping their third straight game heading into the PAL playoffs.
Gunn senior Eric Cramer (126) and sophomore Ian Cramer (132) both won their respective weight divisions, but the Titans needed a few more as they came up short in defending their title at the SCVAL Wrestling Championships on Saturday at Homestead High.
Gunn advanced a record seven wrestlers into the finals and led in the team scoring throughout most of the tournament. During the final round, however, an inspired Monta Vista team slipped past the Titans in the team scoring, 215.5 to 200.5 Meanwhile, Palo Alto finished fifth with 120.5 points.
Although not known at the time, Gunn needed to win seven of its last 13 "medal matches" to clinch the team title. Instead, the Titans won four. Frustratingly, Gunn lost two overtime and two one-point decisions in the finals.
"It was a bittersweet end to a great regular season," said Gunn coach Chris Horpel. "We won the dual-meet title and we were so close to winning the league tournament as well.
"My hat is off to Monta Vista, though; they beat us head-to-head in two finals matches and that basically won the tournament for them. I am hoping that the 'sting' of almost winning this tournament will fuel their performances at CCS."
The top five from the league meet in each weight qualify for CCS and the sixth-place finishers go as alternates. Gunn produced eight qualifiers and two alternates who will travel to Independence High School for the boys' CCS Championships in two weeks. Gunn is currently ranked No. 6 in the section.
That same weekend, three Gunn girls will travel to Lemoore High School for the Girls' State Championships — Cadence Lee, Grace Robinson and Jessica Sun.
Eric Cramer had one technical fall and one pin on the way to winning the 126-pound crown with a 12-4 major decision over Jacob Jagelski of Los Gatos. Ian Cramer had two pins while capturing the 132-pound division with an injury default over Max Dygert of Monta Vista.
Second-place finishers included Cadence Lee (overtime at 106), Daniel Papp (overtime at 120), Blaze Lee (145), Stephen Martin (9-8 at 182) and Sean Lydster (3-2 at 195).
Palo Alto had two individual champions in Gary Hohbach (152) and Andrew Frick (195). Hohbach pinned Josh Robinson of Wilcox his finale in 3:19 while Frick decisioned Gunn's Lydster, 3-2.
"This was a little redemption for Hohbach," said Paly coach Dave Duran. "Gary did not have the tournament he wanted last season. This stuck with him for an entire year — not anymore. He walked through the tournament."
Paly, which took only 10 wrestlers to the league final, had more than half drop a weight class — James Giaccia (106), Eric Oshima (138), Hohbach (152), Jordan Gans (160), Erik
Anderson (170) and Frick to 195. Alex Taussig went up a weight class to 220. All qualified to the CCS tournament along with Jordan Smith.
"We were missing three quality wrestlers who would have scored points for us and qualified to the section tournament," said Duran. "When it's time to wrestle you have to go with what you have.
Overall, we were pleased with the performance. Our goal was to get all of our point scorers through to the section tournament. We did accomplish this. We want to make a push for another top-four finish, and we have time to do this."
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