Palo Alto girls lacrosse head coach Jamie Nesbitt explained she sometimes worries her team is less apt to celebrate certain victories and accomplishments because of how hard she can be on her squad.
After seeing her players jubilantly rejoice on the field after Wednesday night's streak-breaking victory over Gunn, her fear should be put to rest.
Junior Paige Bara led the Vikings with four goals, including the winner, and five of her teammates also chipped in at least one goal to help Paly secure a 10-9 victory over its crosstown rival.
"I think every win should be celebrated like that, obviously within reason," Nesbitt said with a smile after the game. "I think it's important to get excited when you win and I'm happy to see that emotion from them."
The Vikings' victory ties them with Gunn (9-1, 12-2) and St. Francis atop the league standing, and puts Paly (9-1, 11-5) in a great position to make a run at the SCVAL regular-season and playoff championship.
The home victory also serves as payback for the Vikings after their 12-10 loss at Gunn earlier this year.
For the Titans, the loss marks their first league defeat in a season that is shaping up to be one of the best in school history.
Gunn was led in scoring on Wednesday by their two captains, senior Victoria Nguyen and junior Rachael Tsai, who scored four and two goals, respectively.
It seemed as if Gunn's height might pose problems for a shorter Paly squad, but the Vikings used their speed and quickness to nullify any advantage the taller Titans had.
"Some of the shortest girls on our team are also some of the fastest girls," Paly senior Kristen Destefano said. "We like to shoot low and get around (taller) defenders, so they can get off-balance."
Paly's quickness advantage was most prevalent on the team's draw controls, as the Vikings pounced on many of the loose balls. The Vikings ended up winning 13 of the 21 draw controls in the game.
"One of the most important things on offense is to win the draw," Bara said. "If you don't in the draw, it's obviously harder to score goals. Winning the draw is the key thing that gets you on the attacking side and gets you settled in looking for your best options."
The first half was tightly contested between the two rivals, with a two-goal margin serving as both teams' largest advantage.
Bara and Destefano gave the Vikings a 7-5 lead at halftime by scoring the last two goals of the first half.
"In general there were some really great efforts from Paige and Kristen, just holding down midfield for us," Nesbitt said. "Obviously Paige's speed helps, and I think Kristen had a really great control over the game talking players through things."
Gunn came out strong to start the second half, outscoring Paly 3-1 over the first 10 minutes of the period. The Titans' run was capped off with a goal by junior Caroline Chou that tied the game at 8.
Chou's goal proved to be Gunn's only score for the next 10 minutes, as Paly's defense toughened up around the net. Paly goalie Meredith Kinnaman made eight saves while Paige Anderson, Sarah McDonnell, Amalia Roth, Sama Rao and Reid Walters put up a solid defensive front.
"I think we got used to their attack in the first half, so I think in the second half we knew how to force them the right way," Bara said. "Our communication really stepped it up in the second half, and that's what made our defense so great."
Junior Lauren Gargiulo gave Paly back the lead with a driving goal with 12 minutes left, and Bara opened up a two-goal lead six minutes later with her fourth and final goal of the match with under five minutes to play.
Bara's score proved to be crucial, as Gunn sophomore Annie Vesey bounced in a goal with three minutes remaining to cut the deficit to 10-9.
Although Gunn won the ensuing face-off, the Titans could not score again, and Paly held on for the important victory.
The Vikings and Titans will not face each other again in the regular season, but each team still has three more league games left to play.
The Vikings will be home this Friday to face St. Francis (9-1), which now rests in a three-way tie for first with Paly and Gunn. The Lancers' only loss is to Gunn.
"We need to bring the intensity and focus that we brought today to that game," Bara said of the upcoming match against St. Francis. "They also have been one of our rivals for many years, and we need to bring it to them just as hard as we brought it to Gunn."
Gunn is also scheduled to play this Friday at home against Mountain View, which currently owns a 1-8 record in league action.
Should St. Francis and Gunn both win and wind up tied for first with Paly second, the Titans are likely the No. 1 seed for the league playoffs and St. Francis probably would play Paly in the semifinals.
In the West Bay Athletic League, Menlo School remained just a game back of first place following a 17-5 romp over visiting Burlingame on Wednesday.
The Knights (6-1, 13-4) will host first-place Sacred Heart Prep (7-0, 13-5) on Friday (4 p.m.) in what should decide the regular-season title.
Freshman Sophia Donovan led Menlo with four goals with Allison Liddle providing three goals and two assists. The Knights also got two goals each from Parvathi Narayan, Kira Sze and Indie Varma.
Menlo grabbed a 5-0 lead in the first five minutes and cruised from there. The Knights had 18 draw controls to the Panthers' two while out-shooting the visitors, 19-9.