By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
The Central Coast Section Division III girls' soccer playoffs are starting to look like the West Bay Athletic League season, with Sacred Heart Prep and Priory very much alive and heading to the semifinals as two of the top three remaining seeds.
Third-seeded Sacred Heart Prep moved closer to its season goal by defeating No. 6 Harbor, 1-0, in the quarterfinals on Saturday at Piedmont Hills in San Jose.
The Gators (14-4-3), who got the winning goal from Geena Graumann in the second half off an assist from Leda Espinoza, advance to face No. 2 Live Oak (13-3-5) in the semifinals on Tuesday at Valley Christian at 7 p.m. Live Oak advanced with a 9-8 decision on penalty kicks over No. 7 Soquel after the teams had tied, 1-1, following regulation and overtime.
Sacred Heart Prep, with 10 seniors on the team, has its sights set on returning to the CCS Division III finals and winning like it did two seasons ago.
Fifth-seeded Priory, meanwhile, is still looking for its first CCS title. The Panthers certainly have a lineup to accomplish that after thoroughly dominating No. 4 Santa Catalina (13-5-1) in the quarterfinals on Saturday at Valley Christian in San Jose.
Priory (13-3-4) has scored 13 goals and allowed just one in two postseason matches. The Panthers will face No. 8 and host Valley Christian (10-5-5) in the semifinals on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., after VC upset No. 1 Scotts Valley (13-3-4) on Saturday, 1-0.
Should Sacred Heart Prep and Priory advance to the CCS title match on March 5 at Valley Christian, it will be a battle of the top two teams from the WBAL for the past three seasons.
Junior Alyson Perna put Priory up 1-0 in the eighth minute after receiving a through ball from sophomore Mariana Galvan and sending it past the keeper. In the 21st minute, Galvan took a pass from Molly Simpson and dribbled past two defenders inside the penalty box and found the net for the winning goal. In the 37th minute, Galvan headed in a corner kick served in by Simpson and seven minutes later Galvan completed her hat trick on a one-touch finish on a ball that was crossed in by Perna. The three goals give Galvan seven during CCS play and 22 for the season.
Eugenia Jernick (assist Laura Wu), Lauren Barkmann (corner kick from Darrah Shields) and Simpson (unassisted from outside the box) all scored in the second half. Barkmann and Alex Schnabel dominated the midfield and played key roles in the Panthers' stifling defense.
In a Division I quarterfinal, host Gunn saw a tough end to its season but not a disappointing effort as the Titans played No. 1 St. Francis tough before dropping a 1-0 decision on Saturday.
Despite having to qualify as an at-large team, the No. 8-seeded Titans (10-7-5) held the Lancers (15-3-3) scoreless for 51 minutes before St. Francis finally broke through with 29:55 left in the match on a bitterly cold and windy afternoon at Gunn.
"We played 'em tough," said Gunn coach Damian Cohen. "It wasn't the outcome we wanted. (But) No shame. It was all good."
The last time the two teams met was at the Palo Alto Winter Classic a year ago. St. Francis won that match, 4-0, and as Cohen said: "It wasn't that close."
Gunn certainly has made some big strides since then, battling the top teams in the SCVAL De Anza Division and playing solidly against perhaps the best team in the CCS.
"We had 10 wins, beat Paly and made it into CCS," Cohen said, looking back over the season. "We only won three games last year. So, there are a lot of things to build on."
Gunn started the match respecting the Lancers' talent, playing 4-5-1 alignment based heavily on defense.
"I think we frustrated them for a while," Cohen said. "But, we had only one corner kick. We just needed some more opportunities."
Gunn never really threatened until late in the match when Cohen put three forwards in to press the issue. The Titans, after all, had won their previous CCS match in the final two minutes. It just didn't happen this time.
Junior Alyssa Perrault, who scored in Gunn's first-round win, was absent Saturday while attending a funeral. Freshman Sarah Robinson, who missed the first match while away at a national team training camp in Costa Rica, was back but could not make a dent in the tough St. Francis defense.
Gunn senior keeper Molly Butera had a standout match despite giving up the one goal. Fellow seniors Diana Wise and Lisa Jackson led a solid defensive effort along with juniors Lisa Marinaro and Laura Hayward.
Afterward, Cohen told his team: "I'm very proud of you. It was an enjoyable game to watch. They did not dominate your whatsoever. It wasn't the outcome that we wanted, but there's nothing to be ashamed of."
In addition to Butera, Wise and Jackson, Gunn seniors playing their final match included Holly McKenna, Melissa Sun, Anna von Clemm, Bonnie Cardillo and Jesse Klein.
Top-seeded Palo Alto (20-4) advanced to the semifinals of the CCS Division I playoffs with a 53-47 victory over No. 9 Santa Teresa (12-16) on Saturday at Hartnell College in Salinas. The Vikings next will play No. 5 North Salinas (20-6), which upset No. 4 Oak Grove (20-5) in another quarterfinal, 45-41, on Wednesday at Christopher High in Gilroy at 5:30 p.m.
Paly led by as many as 10 points most of the game until Santa Teresa cut it to five with two minutes left as the Vikings turned the ball over numerous times under fullcourt pressure. Paly settled down and held on for the win.
"I am proud of the way this team fought to win this game," said Paly coach Scott Peters. "Sometimes when a team is not playing its best, they need to find a way to get the job done. And I thought they did today. I credit the play of our team leaders. We should get motivated to have great practices this week to get ready for North Salinas."
The Vikings had to overcome playoff jitters and did, thanks to senior Mariah Philips. She made four 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 14 points while junior Lindsay Black and senior Sydney Davis added 12 points each.
In the top half of the bracket, No. 3 Gunn (18-5) also moved on to the semifinals following a 50-22 rout of No. 6 San Benito (17-9), also at Hartnell. The Titans will face No. 2 Gilroy on Wednesday in the other semi at 7:30 p.m. Gilroy (22-1) dispatched Evergreen Valley, 62-31.
"We played great today," said Gunn coach Sarah Stapp. "We're picking a good time to be playing some of our best basketball, but we're going to have to keep it up because all the teams remaining are capable of beating each other."
The Titans received stellar defensive play from everybody, especially Julia Maggioncalda, who made numerous steals and disrupted many passes in addition to scoring 14 points. She had a buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the third quarter to give Gunn a 36-25 lead.
"That was a huge shot," said Stapp. "It got us back over double digits and really swung momentum in our favor."
The key for Gunn was not allowing any easy inside shots for San Benito. Gunn got off to a 10-0 lead to start the first and denied any inside opportunities. In fact, if it weren't for three-pointers, the game would have been over at half time as San Benito did not make a two-point field goal until 4:04 was left in the third.
Gunn junior Cat Perez, who was held to four points in the first half, came on strong in the second half with 12 points.
The fourth period started with Gunn on keeping up the pressure as freshman Zoe Zwerling made a 10-foot jumper from the left side and then Maggioncalda stole a pass and hit a streaking Claire Klausner, who went in for a layup to give Gunn a 40-25 lead. Zwerling finished with 11 points.
In Division IV action, No. 6 Sacred Heart Prep (13-11) saw its season end in a 49-35 loss to No. 3 Soquel (20-7) in a quarterfinal at Notre Dame-Belmont. Melissa Holland led the Gators with 12 points.
Fourth-seeded Menlo School (16-11) was eliminated following a 56-55 loss to No. 5 Mercy-San Francisco (20-8), a team the Knights defeated twice during the WBAL season. The Knights led by four points with less than 20 seconds to play, but ended up giving up a three-pointer and another basket with five seconds left. Menlo also didn't help its cause by missing six of 12 free throws in the final two minutes, finishing with just nine of 21 from the line.
Drew Edelman paced Menlo with 13 points and 15 rebounds and Lauren Lete added 10. The loss marked the end of the prep careers of seniors Emma Paye, Whitney Hooper and Serena Marini.
In Division V play, No. 1 Pinewood (22-5) cruised to an 80-20 victory over No. 8 Summit Prep (11-8) in a quarterfinal on the Panthers' court. Hailie Eackles had 25 points, four rebounds, five steals and four assists to lead the Panthers while Casey Cairo added 15 points and Kelly Doran had 11. Kelsey Morehead contributed seven assists, four rebounds and six points.
Pinewood will host No. 4 St. Francis-Central Coast Catholic (18-10) on Wednesday in a semifinal at 5:30 p.m.
Also in Los Altos Hills, No. 3 Castilleja (13-14) also advanced to the semifinals for a fourth straight season after dominating No. 6 Pacific Collegiate, 66-12. The Gators next will meet No. 2 Eastside Prep (20-7), a 76-8 winner over Jewish Community, in Wednesday's semifinals at Pinewood at 7:30 p.m.
Sophomore post Hashima Carothers scored 20 points for Eastside Prep while senior Ausjerae Holland tallied six points and grabbed nine rebounds. Seniors Ahjalee Harvey and Takara Burse combined for 21 points. The Panthers grabbed a 29-0 first-quarter lead and coasted.
Castilleja, meanwhile, wasted little time putting the contest out of reach as the Gators jumped out to an early 16-0 lead behind sophomore Olivia Nicholls and junior Riya Modi. Nicholls, who led a school-record tying five players in double figures, drained her first four shots of the contest, including all three of her career-high tying three-point field goals in the opening frame. Modi hit four of her first five shots from the field in addition to having five assists as Castilleja set a school record with 30 points in the first quarter.
Castilleja slowed the tempo for the remainder of the contest, adding 36 to its first-quarter total to tie a season-high 66 points. Sophomore Lauren Rantz pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds in addition to scoring 10 points for her second career double-double. Senior Laura Rose added 12 points and 12 rebounds for her first career double-double while Modi scored 12 points and tied her school record and career high of 11 assists while netting her first career double-double, as well.
Senior Natasha von Kaeppler (12 points, nine rebounds, seven steals, five blocks, three assists) and Nicholls (15 points, nine rebounds) were just one rebound shy of their own double-doubles -- marking just the eighth time in school history three players recorded double-doubles the same game. von Kaeppler also broke the school's single-season record for rebounds, previously held by Nikki Perlman with 360.