It was payback time for the Palo Alto girls as they staged a dramatic comeback in a 14-11 lacrosse victory over visiting St. Francis on Friday night to remain atop the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League standings.
The Vikings (10-1, 12-5) had to erase a five-goal deficit in the first half to pull out the stirring victory, which knocked the Lancers out of a share of the top spot.
Paly's players were jubilant as they celebrated their home-field win over the team that edged them out of the league championship last year by a single goal in a heated triple-overtime matchup. And, the win came just two days after the Vikings had beaten previously unbeaten Gunn, 10-9.
On fire in the second half, the Vikings found the back of the net nine times while holding St. Francis to a solitary goal. Nine was also the lucky number for Paly's sophomore goalie, Meredith Kinnaman, whose impressive nine second-half saves came in addition to four in the first period.
Playing before a large and spirited crowd, the Vikings failed to gain much momentum through most of the first half despite scoring first. The Lancers' goals came in quick succession, and by midway through the first period as Paly trailed, 6-1. At the half, the Vikings still trailed by five at 10-5.
The second half belonged, indisputably, to Paly. The Vikings won more draw controls, plowed more aggressively toward the goal, completed flawless passes, and beat back the Lancers' scoring attempts with strong defensive blocks and lightning-fast saves by Kinnaman.
Senior Ami Drez opened up the rally just a minute into play. Often capitalizing on free shots, the Vikings were able to tie up the game at 10-10 with nine minutes to go. Two minutes later, it was even again, at 11-11. Another goal by Drez put Paly into the lead, and from then on, there was no turning back.
Kristen DeStefano led the way for Paly with four goals while Drez and Maya Benetar added three each. Allie Peery scored twice with Paige Bara and Claire Chevallier adding one each.
Palo Alto remains tied with Gunn for first place after the Titans (10-1, 13-2) romped to a 14-0 victory over visiting Mountain View on Friday night. Gunn goalie Brooke Beard had 14 saves.
Caroline Chou had three goals and fellow junior Rachael Tsai finished with two. Senior Anna Cabot contributed two goals and two assists while sophomore Annie Vesey scored twice.
While Gunn and Paly remained tied, the Titans hold a tiebreaker over the Vikings for playoff seeding purposes. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head goals. Gunn beat Palo Alto by two goals in the first match with the Vikings winning by one in the second.
In the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division), Menlo-Atherton edged host Mitty, 13-12, in sudden-death overtime on Friday, avenging an overtime loss earlier this season.
Both teams started fast scoring two goals in the first two minutes. However the game settled into a defensive battle with Mitty getting goals from Morgan Peterson and Izze Ceclio to take a 8-3 lead at the half.
In the second half, the Bears' offense got going with Amanda Wiseman scoring three of her four goals and Cathrine Peterson scoring two of her three goals on the day. M-A defender Hannah Wilson, who dominated throughout the game, had three of her six defensive take-aways. Down by one with five minutes left, the Bear's Sally Carlson scored her third goal to tie the game at 11-11. It remained that way at the end of regulation.
Neither team scored in the first six-minute overtime period. In the second overtime period, Mitty's Katie Toy scored her fourth goal to take the lead, but M-A's Izzy Regonini equalized and the second overtime ended tied 12-12.
In sudden death, the Monarchs scored what appeared to be the winner on a free-position shot. However, the M-A captain noticed that player was using an illegal stick throughout the game and used the team's one stick check request. The officials ruled the stick illegal and waived off the goal. Mitty ended their premature celebration and returned to the field. The Bears immediately transitioned the ball down the field to freshman attacker Grace Tully, who beat three girls and scored the game-winner.
With the win, M-A (4-4, 7-9-1) moved into third place in WBAL.
Menlo-Atherton made some program history by sweeping the PAL Individual Tournament titles on Friday at Burlingame High.
Top-seeded senior Scott Morris won the singles title with a 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 3-seeded freshman Drew Davison of Half Moon Bay. Morris trailed 2-1 in both sets before overpowering his young opponent.
In the doubles finale, the top-seeded tandem of M-A brothers Nick and Reed Fratt defeated their No. 3-seeded teammates Saul Menjivar and Axel Brenner, 6-2, 6-0
Co-head coach Carlos Aguilar believes the Bears reached a milestone with the titles.
'Since I've been coaching (20001), the best we did is to have two singles or two doubles in the finals. This is a firs,t as far as I know."
The Bears, who were undefeated during the PAL Bay Division season, will await Monday's CCS meeting to decide the seeds for the upcoming section tournament. Defending champ Menlo School is expected to be No. 1 while the Bears are hoping to be in the bracket opposite the Knights, who posted a 7-0 win over the Bears this season.