a new identity
The Sacred Heart Prep girls' soccer team has been the most successful local squad in the area during the past three years. The Gators have compiled a 53-13-11 record and reached the Central Coast Section Division III semifinals three times — advancing to the finals in 2009 and winning it.
While the Gators had depth and talent during that three-year span, two standout reasons behind the success story were Abby Dahlkemper and Geena Graumann.
Both Dahlkemper (UCLA) and Graumann (USC) continued their careers at the Pac-12 level this past season with Dahlkemper earning third team All-American honors.
When those two graduated along with eight other SHP seniors this past spring, it marked an end of perhaps one era and the beginning of another for the Gators, who lost only one West Bay Athletic League match during the past three years while winning three straight titles.
Sacred Heart Prep will begin its title defense in January, but the Gators won't be the heavy favorites as in years past. Right now, SHP is in the starting-over stage and the preseason has been anything but easy.
Heading into a nonleague match against visiting South San Francisco on Tuesday, the Gators hadn't won in four matches and hadn't scored a goal. All that finally changed as Sacred Heart Prep's dormant offense exploded for four goals in the second half in a 4-0 victory.
"It was certainly nice to put the ball in the back of the net and get the win," said SHP coach Jake Moffat. "We have a lot of roles that we need to fill, and it takes some time for the team to gel. We have started filling those roles from the back, and the results have been good. I have been wonderfully pleased with the defense; they have only given up two goals in five games.
"We are now just looking for the right chemistry up front. It's impossible to replace players like Abby or Geena, but we can still be dangerous. Today was a nice example."
After dominating the first half on the offensive side but not finding the back of the cage, the Gators exploded for four goals after intermission.
Freshman Christine Callinan gave SHP its first goal of the season, the eventual winner, before freshman Hailey Goldberg made it a 2-0 match. Junior Ali Jordan followed with a third goal off an assist from junior Kendall Jager, who finished off the scoring with freshman Nicola Wheeler assisting.
"I was thrilled to have the freshmen step up and have fun doing it," said Moffat, who has five freshmen on his roster and only three seniors. "We got two goals and an assist from three different freshmen."
How quickly the young players mature will determine how the Gators will fare in the WBAL this season.
"I imagine the whole makeup of the WBAL will be different this year," Moffat said, "but we will bring a team that is ready to compete."
Sacred Heart will take a 1-2-2 record into Saturday's nonleague home match against Willow Glen at 11 a.m. Then, instead of traveling to Orange County for the annual Excalibur Tournament as in previous years, the Gators will take a break until their WBAL opener on January 3.
One team that always challenges Sacred Heart Prep is rival Menlo School, which is 2-2-2 after defeating visiting Prospect, 3-1, in a nonleague match on Tuesday on two goals by sophomore Lindsay Karle and one by junior Priya Medberry.
Menlo out-shot Prospect, 20-6, while the tandem of junior goalies Julia Dressel and Kelly McConnell was solid again.
The Knights are on holiday break until opening the WBAL season on January 5.
Also on break is Menlo-Atherton, which responded to a 1-0 deficit in the second half and scored three unanswered goals to post a 3-2 nonleague triumph over visiting St. Ignatius on Tuesday.
Jen Kirst sent a cross to Meryssa Thompson, who tied the match in the 64th minute. Kirst then gave the Bears (4-2) a 2-1 lead off an assist from Gabby Zanutta. Just nine minutes later, Kirst and Thompson hooked up again, with Thompson getting her second goal.
Palo Alto, like Menlo, is 2-2-2 heading into the holidays after finishing second in its own Palo Alto Winter Classic last weekend. The youthful Vikings are also struggling a bit on offense, but have been solid on defense — registering three straight shutouts in the tourney that forced the matches to penalty kicks.
In boys' soccer, Menlo-Atherton is off to a 4-0-1 start after blanking visiting St. Francis on Monday, 2-0. The Bears will play host to Ygnacio Valley on Friday at 4 p.m., before heading into the holiday break.
Gunn was 2-0-2 before Thursday's match at Santa Clara and could be busy this weekend at the Homestead Christmas Cup before taking a break.
Menlo School will take a 3-0-2 mark into its WBAL opener on January 4 against league favorite Sacred Heart Prep, which will take a 2-0-2 mark into Saturday night's preseason finale at Soquel.
Palo Alto, meanwhile, had Thursday's nonleague match at Carlmont as a final chance to win its first game of the preseason. The Vikings (0-6-1) are struggling with youth and inexperience this season.