By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Sacred Heart Prep boys' soccer coach Armando Del Rio didn't get a tub of water dumped on him Friday, but it wasn't because he or his team didn't earn it. It just wasn't the appropriate time.
The Gators could have celebrated their 8-0 victory over visiting Eastside Prep, which wrapped up a third straight West Bay Athletic League title, but they didn't. There are more important things ahead.
"They were excited inside (the locker room)," Del Rio said. "One reason why they were excited but didn't show it was the first-round exits the past two years."
Del Rio was talking about Sacred Heart's back-to-back first-round losses in the Central Coast Section playoffs in 2009 and '10 after pretty much dominating the WBAL. Last season, the Gators went 14-0 in league and lost their section opener.
Thus, the celebrating can wait. Winning the WBAL was nice for a number of reasons, but del Rio knows his team wants more even though it already has accomplished a lot, like outscoring the opposition 78-8 this season.
Eight different players scored for SHP on Friday -- Andrew Liotta, Marcelino Perez, Alec Mishra, Jack Odell, Robert Ojeda, Willy Lamb, freshman Andrew Segre and Max Polkinhorne.
The Gators improved to 11-0-1 on Friday (16-0-1 overall) and have 34 points with only two matches remaining. King's Academy and Priory were tied with 24 points heading into matches on Friday, but could only finish with 33 points by sweeping their final three.
Thus, the Gators made it a three-peat, matching the SHP girls' soccer team that accomplished the same feat on Thursday.
"It's a good feat for them to do it three years in a row," del Rio said of his squad. "We played the kind of game today the way we want to play."
Sacred Heart was able to work on its passing and teamwork, the kind of style del Rio prefers. A 3-0 halftime lead made that possible and a five-goal second-half explosion removed any concerns about next week's final two games.
"It was good that we clinched today," del Rio said. "We have Spirit Week coming up. Getting them to have good practice is really tough."
Spirit Week at SHP entails a week of class challenges and activities, which can be distracting even to the veteran athletes. Had not the Gators won on Friday, their next match on Wednesday at King's Academy was no sure thing. King's Academy has a small grass field and is the team that deadlocked the Gators in the first round.
Sacred Heart Prep, however, now has the revenge factor.
"They (King's Academy) celebrated (the tie) like it was World Cup," del Rio said. His players haven't forgotten.
Two more victories also will give SHP an 18-0-1 regular-season record, one of the best in school history. So, there's still plenty to play for in the coming week – and postseason.
Elsewhere in the WBAL, Priory moved back into sole possession of second place thanks to an 8-0 romp over Crystal Springs and Menlo's 1-0 upending of King's Academy. The Panthers improved to 9-3 (10-5-4) for 27 points while King's remained with 24 points at 7-2-3.
Austin Mirabella got his first hat trick for Priory to lead the offense while Colin Schreiner and Alex Brugger put in solid defensive performance. The Panthers will host Eastside Prep on Wednesday (2:30 p.m.) on Senior Day.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton junior Edgardo Molina scored three goals and added an assist to spark the Bears to a 5-1 victory over visiting Terra Nova on Friday. Menlo-Atherton (9-2-1, 11-3-2) moved back into a tie for first place with Burlingame, which was upset by Woodside, 2-1.
Aaron Oro and Will Cabral added the other goals with Francisco Sanchez providing two assists for M-A, which was deadlocked at halftime, 1-1.
"To be honest, I was a bit worried at halftime," said M-A coach Jacob Pickard. "We played well in the first half, but just like in our last game with them, we couldn't finish off all our chances. We were able to put one away, but again conceded a penalty to them (the only two we've given up all season). We weren't down at the half, but we weren't winning either.
"Fortunately, we got good news during the middle of our halftime talk with a text message letting me know that Burlingame had lost. That was enough motivation for the boys to find their focus and drive in the second half. Even though we were able to put away four goals in just over five minutes (including Edgardo's two minute, 24-second hat-trick), Terra Nova still pressed on for a second goal and tested our replacement goalkeeper, Lennart Beland, more than a couple of times. It ended well though, and our first-ever Senior Night finished positively."
M-A and Burlingame each have two matches remaining this week (the Bears are at Carlmont on Monday) and likely will finish as co-champions. The league does need a designated No. 1 seed.
"I'm fairly certain that we could take that spot," Pickard said. "Since we have an even head-to-head record, we'd go off the team below us, Woodside. We beat Woodside both times we played them, but Burlingame just lost to them on Friday and I believe that would give us the first seed.
"The only bad point would be that Burlingame and M-A would have to split the CCS bonus points that come from winning league, meaning that both of us run the risk of not getting a first-round bye (for CCS)."
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, visiting Palo Alto kept its hopes alive for an automatic CCS berth by defeating host Los Altos on Friday, 2-0. The Vikings improved to 4-0-7 in league (19 points) and 8-2-8 overall while the Eagles fell to 5-4-2 (17 points).
Paly moved past Los Altos and into third place, but the Vikings must play first-place Mountain View next week while Los Altos plays winless Santa Clara. Only the top three teams in the division get automatic berths into the CCS playoffs.
Paly senior Zac Hummel provided the eventual winning score in the second half after taking a deflected pass from senior Mark Raftrey and finishing with 10 minutes gone. About 10 minutes later, senior Toby Nelson-Gol took a cross from sophomore Matt Waymouth and headed it into the upper corner of the cage.
The showdown was very competitive with both teams needing victories to keep their postseason hopes alive. The Eagles had the best opportunities early on but the Paly defense behind keeper Austin Shiau, center backs Austin Smith and Gerrit van Zyll, and outside backs Grant Shorin and Peter Laminette tightened up in the second half and kept the Los Altos attempts to a minimum.
Center midfielders John Richardson and Josh Totte, along Michael Sullivan, also enabled Paly to control most of the second half after the first goal was scored.
Palo Alto suffered its seventh straight match without a win, dropping a 2-0 decision to visiting Los Altos in SCVAL De Anza Division action Friday. The Vikings are 2-7-2 in league (5-11-2 overall) and likely will miss the postseason for the first time since 2000.
In the WBAL Skyline Division, Pinewood got two goals from Danielle Man in a 5-0 victory over Mercy-San Francisco. Adrienne Whitlock added a goal and an assist, as did Margo Cilker. Gaby Amos-Grosser also scored. Charlotte Johnson, Courtney Copriviza and Quinn Foster provided assists for the Panthers (6-4, 10-8-1).