After having to forfeit six games due to an ineligible player, the Palo Alto girls' lacrosse team has battled back from that adversity to keep its postseason hopes alive.
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 and fourth-place finish -- thus earning a berth in next week's playoffs.
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.
The Vikings will play at St. Ignatius on Thursday in a nonleague match before closing out the regular season on Friday with a home match against last-place Sequoia at 7 p.m.
In another SCVAL De Anza Division match, second-place Gunn posted a 15-12 victory over host Los Gatos to lock up a division playoff berth. The Titans improved to 10-3 in league as 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.
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.
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.
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.
Los Gatos led early, 3-1 at the end first, before the Vikings' offense hit its stride. Second-period goals by Hoglund, Jordan Gans, Glazier, Lam, and Tully McCallister made it 6-4 at halftime. Glazier then broke it open with four straight unanswered tallies. Attack Zach Levitan added another for good measure, and it was 11-4 going into the last quarter.
During the fourth, Coach Craig Conover allowed some key players to swap positions. Stalwart defender James Harrison played attack and scored his first goal of the year; goalie Andre Kouchekey almost got one, too.
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.
Gunn, Menlo-Atherton and Palo Alto advanced to the second round of the CCS team playoffs following impressive victories on Wednesday.
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.