It has been a long time since the Menlo-Atherton boys' soccer team played for a Central Coast Section title. The year was 1994 and the Bears won. Most of the current team members weren't even born yet.
The Bears also won in 1985 and thus are 2-0 in championship match appearances. All M-A needs to do, perhaps, is get there.
This season's squad may have the talent and drive to do that.
"We want to go undefeated," said senior forward Edgardo Molina. "That's been our season-long goal."
Thus far, the Bears have kept to their plan while compiling a 5-0-3 record in the PAL Bay Division (10-0-4 overall). On Wednesday, M-A had to settle for a 1-1 deadlock with host Woodside. The Bears got their goal from junior Alexei Lopes on an assist from senior Alan Propp.
Menlo-Atherton, which took over the division lead by beating San Mateo last Friday, entered Wednesday's game ranked No. 26 in the nation in the Powerade Fab 50 by ESPNHS and No. 7 in the state while trailing only Alisal (No. 7 nation, No. 2 state) among Northern California teams.
The Bears will host Sequoia on Friday (5:30 p.m.) before embarking on an important three-game stretch next week against visiting San Mateo (Monday), host Aragon (Wednesday) and visiting Burlingame (Feb. 10).
In the West Bay Athletic League, Sacred Heart Prep maintained its hold on first place following a 4-0 victory over host Crystal Springs. SHP has 26 points and a four-point lead with four matches remaining in the regular season.
The Gators (8-0-2, 11-0-4) got the eventual winning goal in the first half from Andrew Segre off an assist from Brendan Spillane.
Andrew Liotta then scored the first of two goals with Segre assisting for a 2-0 halftime lead. Willy Lamb opened the second half with the first of his two assists, first on a goal by Steven Glassmoyer and then to Liotta.
In Atherton, host Menlo School remained in third place and just one point out of second following a 5-0 victory over Priory. The Knights improved to 6-1-3 in league (9-1-5 overall) and have 21 points. King's Academy (7-1-1), which routed Pinewood, 5-0, is in second with 22 points.
Max Parker had a hat trick for Menlo, two coming in the second half. Freshman Kyle Perez assisted on two of them in addition to assisting on Julian Viret's first goal of the season in the second half. Junior Beau Baldwin also found the net to cap the scoring and contributed to the shutout along with fellow defensive standouts Glenn Baxter, Jack Redman and Alec Drobac.
In the SCVAL De Anza Divison, Gunn completed a rare season sweep of rival Palo Alto as Cameron McElfresh scored in the first half on an assist from Kevin Macario. The Titans (4-3-1, 7-5-3) remained in a two-way tie for fourth place with Homestead, both with 13 points. Mountain View leads with 22 points while Palo Alto (0-7-2, 0-13-4) fell to last.
Palo Alto avenged a first-round loss to rival Gunn by handing the visiting Titans a 3-1 defeat in SCVAL De Anza Division action on Wednesday night. Gunn won the first meeting by the same score.
This time, Paly (2-5-2, 5-6-5) started aggressively and dominated the ball. The Vikings scored quickly as center midfielder Lily Seedman passed to Mira Ahmad, who found the net from 15 yards out in the sixth minute. This was Ahmad's first game and first goal of the season as she had been benched due to previous concussions.
Gunn (1-5-2, 5-9-2) tied it 10 minutes later on a goal by Sarah Robinson, a member of the U.S. U-17 National Team who was held in check otherwise by Ahmad. The Paly offense kept up the pressure, threatening Gunn goal keeper Monisha White (also playing her first game of the season). In the 22nd minute, Paly had the ball in front of the goal, scrambling with multiple players taking shots. The loose ball finally was finished by sophomore Sunny Lyu for a 2-1 lead.
With four minutes remaining in the half, Paly junior forward Jordan Smith outran Gunn defenders down the right side of the field and crossed the ball to the far left post, where defender Nina Kelty met Smith's feed to score.
In the WBAL Foothill Division, Menlo School was sitting atop the standings for the first time this late in the season heading into Thursday's showdown with third-place Priory.
Menlo held on to first place with a 2-0 victory over visiting Kings Academy on Tuesday. The Knights (7-1, 9-4-1 before Thursday) won their sixth straight WBAL contest, five of them by shutout, while maintaining a two-point lead over second-place Sacred Heart Prep, 21-19. Priory also won on Tuesday for 18 points.
Only the top two teams will receive automatic berths into the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs, while the third-place team will play the WBAL Skyline Division champ for the league's third section berth.
Menlo took the lead against King's Academy just 18 minutes into the match when sophomore Lindsay Karle won possession of the ball in the box and then slipped a pass to sophomore Chandler Wickers, who scored from 12 yards out. Wickers found the back of the net again on a 10-yard volley off a well-placed cross off the foot of sophomore Jaye Boissiere at 26 minutes.
In Atherton, junior Kendall Jager had a foot in every goal as Sacred Heart Prep blanked Mercy-Burlingame, 3-0. The Gators remained in second place while improving to 6-1-1 in league (8-3-5 overall). Jager scored twice and assisted once.
In San Jose, Priory held off Notre Dame-San Jose, 2-1. Eugenia Jernick gave the Panthers (6-1, 9-3-2) a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute off an assist from Darrah Shields. In the 44th minute, Shields took a pass from Sarah Zuckerman and made it a 2-0 match.
In the WBAL Skyline Division, Pinewood lost an opportunity to grab a share of first place following a 2-2 deadlock with host Crystal Springs on Tuesday in Hillsborough. The Panthers needed a victory to share the top spot with 33 points. Instead, Crystal (11-0-1) moved to 34 points while Pinewood (10-1-1) has 31 with four matches to play.
Pinewood (11-3-2 overall) grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first half when Nicole Colonna scored off an assist from Andrienne Whitlock in the 10th minute and Danielle Man followed four minutes later with an unassisted goal. The Gryphons, however, blanked the Panthers from there and tied the match with goals in the 43rd and 79th minutes.
"The whole game was extremely intense and close," said Pinewood coach Whitney Wood. "We came out really strong and caught them off-guard in the first half. In the second, they were more prepared for us, and got an early goal. With about two minuytes to go, they got a free kick, which ended up as a goal. It was for first place, so the pressure and tension was high for both teams. It was truly a great game. Unfortunately, we came out short this time."
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton remained in the hunt for a division title following a 4-0 victory over host Burlingame on Tuesday. The Bears improved to 6-2-1 in league (10-4-1 overall). M-A, with 19 points and four straight victories, still sits in third place behind Aragon (7-1-1, 22 points) and Carlmont (6-1-2, 20 points).
M-A senior Meryssa Thompson scored one goal and added one assist to lead the way. Senior Jen Kirst provided the first and winning goal, Naomi Pacalin made it a 3-0 match and the Bears got an own goal in the second half to wrap things up. Liz Cruz assisted on Thompson's goal in the first half and Zoe Pacalin assisted on her sister's second-half goal.