Paly girls look to be a lock
Four straight lacrosse wins have Vikings in position for postseason playoffs
While the season seemed lost when the Palo Alto girls' lacrosse team had to forfeit six matches due to an ineligible player, the Vikings never gave up despite falling from a tie for first place.
Knowing they needed to win every remaining SCVAL De Anza Division match to make the playoffs, the Vikings have done just that.
The Vikings won their fourth straight match, a 15-6 victory over host Leland on Wednesday, to improve to 6-7 in the SCVAL De Anza Division (8-9 overall) and keep their hopes for a .500 finish — thus earning a berth in next week's playoffs.
St. Francis leads the division at 12-1 while Gunn is second at 10-3 following a 15-12 win over third-place Los Gatos on Wednesday.
Palo Alto, meanwhile, apparently has vaulted itself into fourth place and should secure that final playoff position with a victory over winless Sequoia on Friday night on the Vikings' field. Senior Night will bring a special meaning to this year's team.
Paly started out slow in the opening half while struggling with ground balls, while Leland won the first four draws. That changed with Charlotte Biffar scored on a penalty shot and Anna Diaraghi followed with another goal, assisted by Kimmie Flather.
After Leland answered with a pair of goals and a 2-2 deadlock, Paly gained the upper hand by winning the next seven draws. Flather scored to get things rolling as the Vikings grabbed an 8-4 halftime lead.
The Vikings scored seven goals after intermission while senior Ashley Swensied and Nina Kelty stood out on defense while goalie Emma Beckstrom finished off a strong performance with 12 saves.
Kelty finished with three goals and an assist while Anne Marie Drez added three goals. Flather, Biffar and Layla Memar all had two goals.
In another SCVAL De Anza Division match, Gunn possibly helped Paly by holding off Los Gatos to lock up a division playoff berth. The Titans' Katie-rose Skelly and Maddison Sabbag each scored four goals while Lauren King added three. Sabbag finished with seven points as she added three assists.
In the WBAL Foothill Division, Castilleja shocked Sacred Heart Prep for the second time this season with an 18-16 decision on the Gators' field.
Castilleja (4-5, 9-5) moved into a tie with SHP (4-5, 8-8) as goals from Katherine Hobbs and Martha Harding in the final minute made the difference after Sacred Heart Prep had tied the match with a minute to play.
Hobbs scored her ninth goal from a free-position shot and Harding finished off a five-goal effort at the buzzer. Lou Biffar added two goals while Charlotte Jones and Julia Brug also scored for Castilleja.
In another WBAL Foothill match, Menlo-Atherton dropped an 11-8 decision to host Burlingame and fell into a three-way tie for third place with Castilleja and Sacred Heart Prep. The Bears (4-5, 6-7) got three goals from Becca Higgitt and two from Emily Carlson while Burlingame moved to 6-3 and solidified second place.
M-A, Castilleja and SHP will all play for two remaining playoff spots on Friday. SHP has the easiest task, hosting winless Sacred Heart Cathedral, while Castilleja visits Menlo-Atherton at 4 p.m.
On Tuesday, Brooke Bullington scored four goals with three assists and Michaela Michael added four goals and two assists to pace first-place Menlo School to a 26-3 romp over host Sacred Heart Cathedral. The Knights (9-0, 13-4) held a 17-3 halftime lead on their way to a 10th-straight victory.
Michael, meanwhile, was named ESPN's HS girls' lacrosse player of the week for the West Region for her play last week in victories over St. Ignatius, Castilleja and Sacred Heart Prep. She currently had 115 goals and 29 assists on the season to rank No. 1 in the state in goals and total points (144).
Jake Batchelder and Will King led Menlo School to within one victory of clinching at least a tie for the West Bay Athletic League title as the Knights downed host Harker, 11-2, on Wednesday. The Knights (7-0, 16-7) have a two-game lead with three to play. Menlo can clinch a title tie by beating host Sacred Heart Prep on Friday at 4 p.m.
Batchelder once again was outstanding on the mound as he threw six innings of no earned-run ball while striking nine and walking only three. He also slammed a two-run homer in the sixth.
Another big blow came in the third when sophomore Will King hit a three-run homer to give Menlo a 6-0 lead. Senior shortstop Chris Zeisler added three RBI, as well, as the Knights closed in on making the CCS playoffs for the 24th time in the past 25 years.
In Atherton, host Sacred Heart Prep remained within striking distance of Menlo for at least one more day following a 4-0 victory over Crystal Springs.
The Gators (5-2, 14-9-1) got a sterling one-hit effort from Tyler Vau Dell and a pair of RBI from Joey Papangellin on a double.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton suffered a setback in its quest for a title following a 10-5 loss to host Burlingame on Wednesday. The Panthers (9-2, 16-6) pounded out 14 hits against the Bears (8-3, 18-6), who hurt themselves by committing six errors.
M-A senior Nick Lange suffered his first loss after seven straight wins. Dylan Cook had two hits and two RBI for the Bears.
The teams will meet again on Friday at M-A (3:15 p.m.), with the Bears needing a win to move back into a tie for first place.
In the SCVAL El Camino Division, host Gunn beat Milpitas, 7-6, on Tuesday and clinched at least a tie for the division title.
Gunn improved to 10-2 in league (18-6 overall) and helds a three-game lead over second-place Fremont (7-5) heading into their matchup on Thursday.
Milpitas held a 3-1 lead in the fifth before Gunn battled back. A three-run homer by Graham Fisher gave the Titans a 6-3 lead.
Milpitas scored two runs in the top of the sixth and one in the seventh to tie the game. In the bottom of the seventh with one out, Fisher hit a sharp single to left for his third hit of the game. Freshman Matthew Sandor singled pinch-runner Scott Ziebelman to second, and junior Chris Rea ripped a ground-rule double to deep left to score Ziebelman for the win.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division playoffs, defending champ Palo Alto suffered a 4-2 loss to visiting Wilcox on Tuesday. The Vikings (22-4) and Chargers met again Thursday at Wilcox, with Paly needing a win to force a final game Friday at Paly at 3:30 p.m.
The Palo Alto boys' and girls' swim teams will have a head start when the SCVAL De Anza Division swimming championships get under way Friday at Lynbrook High in San Jose.
The Paly boys scored 59 points and the Paly girls totaled 62 to lead the way during competition Tuesday at Palo Alto.
Palo Alto's Cole Plambeck won the boys' individual title with 476.65 points on 11 dives. Miko Mallari of Gunn was second with 298.90. Paly's Jonathan Kosaka was fourth (274.80), Gunn's Blaze Lee was fifth (259.70) and Paly's Alex Hammer was sixth (245.15).
The Gunn boys will take 23 points into Friday's swimming.
In the girls' competition, Paly swept the top three spots with Emma Miller taking the title with 390.05 points. Serena Yee was second (381.65) and Nadye Nee third (340.40) as the Vikings outscored rival Gunn, 62-8, heading into the swimming portion of the meet.
The Palo Alto girls have won nine straight league meet titles, but that streak will be threatened by Gunn on Friday.
Menlo School junior Andrew Buchanan tied for individual honors and Sacred Heart Prep earned the league's second berth for the Central Coast Section playoffs during the West Bay Athletic League Tournament on Wednesday at San Juan Oaks Golf Course in Hollister.
Buchanan, who led the Knights to the WBAL dual-match team title and the league's automatic CCS berth last week, shot 75 on Wednesday to share individual honors with Harker's Maverick McNealy, who joined with Colton Bares of Pinewood and Shrish Dwivedi of Harker as the league's three individuals into a CCS regional next week at Rancho Canada West in Carmel Valley. Bares shot 81.
Daniel Hoffman of Priory just missed advancing after shooting an 82. Menlo freshman Ethan Wong also shot 82.
In the battle for the second team berth, Sacred Heart Prep shot 412 to qualify for CCS. Menlo was second at 413 while Harker (439), Pinewood (447) and King's Academy (493) rounded out the competition.
Kevin Knox led SHP with an 80 while Derek Ackerman (81), Andrew Vetter (82), Bradley Knox (84) and Zach Lamb (85) rounded out the Gators' scoring.
At the PAL Tournament, Menlo-Atherton's Travis Anderson shot 76 at Crystal Springs on Wednesday and finished the two-day event in second place at 152 to earn an individual berth into the CCS regionals next week. Anderson and his teammates already had qualified as a team by virtue of winning the regular-season title.
At the SCVAL Championships on Monday, also at San Juan Oaks, Gunn won its first league title in 10 years.
"The Gunn players really played great golf on a difficult course and in very windy conditions," said Gunn coach Chris Redfield.
Gunn shot 404 to easily defeat second-place Saratoga (428) while Palo Alto finished fourth at 435. Only the top two (of six) teams qualified for one of two CCS regionals next Wednesday at Rancho Canada West in Carmel Valley.
Gunn had three players break 80 on the par-72 course, which puts a premium on driving, especially on the back nine. Junior Avinash Sharma led the way with a 74, freshman Jack Jaffe shot 77 and freshman Anna Zhou finished with a 78 on a day where only six players in the field of 52 broke 80.
"Avinash, Jack and Anna have played well all season," said Redfield, "but played some of their best golf of the season when it counted most."
Other Gunn scores included an 85 by Anson Cheng and 90s by Jayshree Sarathy and Curran Sinha. All six Gunn players qualified for the CCS team competition.
The SCVAL individual tournament was held Tuesday with Sharma qualifying with a 153, one shot behind individual champion David Pellerin of Mountain View. Palo Alto's Grant Raffel (159) and Sam Neithammer (160) also qualified.
Palo Alto celebrated Senior Day and its final regular-season home game with a resounding 15-8 win against Los Gatos on Thursday. The win improves the Vikings' record to 7-4 in the SCVAL De Anza Division (11-6 overall), with one regular-season game remaining at Los Gatos (2-9, 7-9) on Friday night.
Although junior attack Jonny Glazier was high-point man for the game, with five goals and one assist, Paly's seniors made solid contributions to the win. Mat Lam scored a goal and was again dominant on face-offs, winning eight of nine. Senior co-captains Kris Hoglund and Gabe Landa did their part, with Hoglund tallying two goals and three assists, and Landa playing another tenacious game at long-pole middle, gathering ground balls and clearing for the Vikings.
Defensive specialists Kalen Gans and Nathan Norimoto's solid play kept the Wildcats at bay while the Paly offense got into gear. Palo Alto beat Burlingame on Tuesday, 11-4.
On Tuesday, Menlo School reeled in its third consecutive victory, topping visiting Los Gatos by 6-5 in an SCVAL De Anza Division match. The defending champion Knights improved to 7-4 in the division (10-9 overall) and held on to third place.
Against the Wildcats, the Knights pulled ahead in the second quarter at 2-1 and held on for the win. Junior Nick Schultz registered a hat trick and junior Wiley Osborne had a goal and a pair of assists. Senior Ryan Grzejka scored twice, had a steal and combined with Schultz for 11 ground balls. Senior Shuhei Nakata won 11 of 13 face-offs for Menlo, and junior Luc McNally recorded seven saves.
In nonleague action, host Sacred Heart Prep scored three goals in the final period to pull out an 11-10 victory over Redwood on Tuesday. Andrew Eifert and Brian White each tallied three times for the Gators (13-3) while Frankie Hattler added two goals and two assists. Goalie Austin Appleton finished with 11 saves.
SHP won the SCVAL De Anza Division title on Saturday by beating Burlingame.
Kelly McConnell picked up the pitching win and helped herself at the plate with a double, single and one RBI to pace Menlo School to a 5-4 victory over visiting Castilleja in a WBAL Foothill Division game on Tuesday.
The Knights rallied with two runs in the bottom of the eighth to pull out the triumph. Aryana Yee had three singles and one RBI for the Gators, who had gone ahead 4-3 with a run in the top of the eighth. Annie Apffel had a double and Callie Brown an RBI single for Castilleja (6-3, 8-15), which still has hopes of finishing among the top two teams and earn a CCS berth.
In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Gunn won a pair of games on Tuesday to solidify second place with two games remaining in the regular season.
With last Friday's game with Lynbrook halted after two innings, that game was continued on Tuesday with Gunn winning, 11-0, after the Titans scored 10 runs in the fourth inning. Claire Klausner had two doubles and three RBI in addition to picking up the pitching win with 10 strikeouts in five innings.
In the regularly scheduled game, Klausner was back on the mound and got the win in a 7-1 triumph with nine strikeouts while allowing only three hits in seven innings. She helped herself with three hits and two RBI. Nat Oda added two doubles while Laura Kidder contributed a pair of hits.
Gunn (8-2, 10-10) will host first-place Los Altos on Friday at 4 p.m.
Palo Alto senior Byron Sanborn was the standout at the SCVAL De Anza Division trials on Wednesday at Lynbrook High as he broke a league record from 1969 while qualifying first in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Sanborn won in 57.03, breaking the league record of 57.10 set by Santa Clara's Brian Job.
Paly sophomore Andrew Liang, meanwhile, broke his own school record in the 50 free while finishing second in the trials in 21.46. His old mark was 21.47 set last year.
Menlo School will open defense of its CCS title when the top-seeded Knights host Mountain View on Friday at 2:30 p.m.
Menlo (21-0) was the easy choice for the No. 1 seed during Monday's section seeding meeting. The Knights have won 10 section crowns and will be gunning for only the third perfect season in program history over the next few weeks.
In his 16th season as head coach, Menlo's Bill Shine will bring a 372-41 record with the Knights into this year's playoffs. In the past three seasons, his teams have compiled a record of 82-3.
On Wednesday, Gunn, Menlo-Atherton and Palo Alto advanced to the second round of the CCS team playoffs following impressive victories.
The Titans (7-12), who had the worst record of any team in the tournament, upended host Sacred Heart Prep, 11-7, in the three-singles, three-doubles, round-robin format.
Gunn coach Jim Gorman brought up a doubles team of Avner Kreps and Eric Noh from the frosh-soph team and that tandem won two of three matches and produced the deciding victory. Gunn next will play at No. 8 Los Altos (13-5) on Friday at 2:30 p.m.
At Menlo-Atherton, the Bears (20-2) rolled past Leigh, 16-2, and next will face host and No. 6 seed Saratoga (13-6) on Friday at 2:30 p.m.
At Palo Alto, the Vikings (13-8) took care of Harker, 14-4, to reach Friday's second round against No. 2 Bellarmine (17-4) at the Decathlon Club in Santa Clara. Nicky Hu won all three of his No. 1 singles matches by 6-0, 6-0 scores.
Pat Bruni had 14 kills and 16 digs to pace Sacred Heart Prep to a 25-17, 25-19, 25-19 victory over host Fremont in a SCVAL El Camino Division match on Wednesday. Austin Baloff added seven kills and six blocks, Luksa Oswald contributed eight kills and three aces, and Justin Morris finished with 28 assists as the Gators improved to 7-5 in league and 9-8 overall.