The Palo Alto girls advanced to their first Central Coast Section championship match in soccer since 2009 with a 5-0 romp over No. 6 seed Santa Teresa (14-7) in the Division I semifinals on Wednesday on the Vikings' home field.
Palo Alto will take on top-seeded Mountain View (17-2-1) in the title match on Saturday at Valley Christian at 10 a.m. The Spartans advanced with a 1-0 victory over No. 5 seed Carlmont (13-8-2) at Milpitas High in the other semifinal.
The Vikings and Spartans split their SCVAL De Anza Division matches with each other this season, but Mountain View won the division title by one point.
Palo Alto coach Kurt Devlin had a feeling this year's squad could reach the finals after he took over the program for the 2011-12 season.
"From the beginning, I think it's always been a goal," Devlin said of reaching the CCS final. "Our seniors, I think three or four of them, have been contributors since they were freshmen, so that year I knew that in the future the team was going to be good. And then Jacey (Pederson) comes into the scene, and then Alison Lu and other juniors behind them, and all of a sudden it's that much more talented. And the rest of the players, being role players or not, they've all done well, they've all contributed."
Palo Alto will be playing for its first outright title since the 1980 team went 19-0 and won the section title when there was just one division. The Vikings also shared the crown in 1982.
Second-seeded Paly (17-2-1) put the match away with three goals in the opening half. Junior Jacey Pederson lofted in a shot from 30 yards out in the 25th minute, junior Nika Woodfill made it 2-0 in the 22nd minute and and sophomore Natalie Maloney connected in stoppage time on a cross from Woodfill.
The offensive onslaught continued in the second half with defender Alison Lu knocking home a shot from in front of the Saints' goal in the 38th minute. In the 24th minute, a Santa Teresa player was called for a hand ball inside the penalty box and Pederson tallied her second goal on the penalty kick and now has 26 goals this season.
Palo Alto's defense blanked the Saints' senior standout, Tegan McGrady, who is headed to Stanford in the fall. Paly sophomore Lauola Amanoni was all over McGrady, who wound up being a non-factor in the match.
Girls Division III
Top-seeded Sacred Heart Prep rolled into its second straight title match with a 5-1 romp over No. 12 King's Academy at Westmont High in Campbell. The Gators (18-2-1), who have outscored two opponents by 15-1 in the postseason, will take on No. 7 Sacred Heart Cathedral (10-8-5) in Saturday's finals at Valley Christian at 3 p.m.
Sacred Heart Prep had no need for PKs as junior Tierna Davidson scored unassisted in the fourth minute and sophomore Sophie Amid-Hozour tallied the eventual winning goal in the 16th minute.
Brigid White, one of only four seniors on the team, scored in the 46th minute off an assist from freshman Mia Shenk. Davidson got her second goal in the 72nd minute with Lauren Von Thaden assisting and Shenk wrapped things up in the 75th minute with sophomore Olivia Athens assisting.
Should SHP win its second outright section title on Saturday, the Gators will tie the school record for single-season wins (19) set last year.
At Palo Alto High, Menlo fell to Sacred Heart Cathedral in a heartbreaker decided by penalty kicks after the teams had tied at 1-1 in regulation.
The Knights finish the season 12-4-5 and end a four-year run in which they went 58-15-15 and during that time, won a CCS championship outright as well as a co-championship.
"I was so proud of the way the girls played," Menlo coach Donoson FitzGerald said. "They gave it their all, they played some really good soccer. They battled and left it all on the field."
Against the Irish, sophomore Emily Demmon scored the Knights' goal. Alexandra Walker hit a free kick that fellow senior Leah Swig headed on goal. Demmon jumped on the rebound and knocked it in from close range five yards out at 32 minutes into the first half to tie the score.
Sacred Heart Cathedral scored 12 minutes into the match. Menlo out-shot the Irish, 16-10, but just could not convert the numerous opportunities.
Walker, senior Jamie Corley and junior Zoe Enright made penalty kicks for the Knights, whose fourth kick was saved by their goalkeeper. Schuyler Tilney-Volk saved the fourth kick and the SHC goalie saved a fifth kick and the Irish made a fifth kick.
FitzGerald, who has coached the Knights for a quarter of a century, reflected on his most recent season.
"They really grew together and evolved as a team. They worked very hard every day, and they aspired to be their best.
"They were committed to each other and they cared so much. I am so proud of all of them and what they accomplished as a team this season."
Boys Division I
Top-seeded Menlo-Atherton saw its season come to an end in a 2-0 loss to No. 5 Bellarmine in a semifinal match at Milpitas. The Bears finished the year 16-4 while the Bells take a 15-4-4 record into Saturday's section title match.
Boys Division II
Third-seeded Gunn played 100 scoreless minutes with No. 2 Leland (13-1-8) and wound up falling in penalty kicks, 3-2, in a semifinal at Valley Christian in San Jose. The Titans finished 15-4-3 after winning the SCVAL El Camino Division title this season.
Boys Division III
Sacred Heart Prep survived penalty kicks for the second straight match and advanced to the championship match with a 3-1 shootout win over No. 4 seed Santa Cruz on Wednesday at Westmont High in Campbell.
The No. 8-seeded Gators (13-2-7) will play No. 2 Sacred Heart Cathedral (15-3-4) in the finals Saturday at Homestead High at 12:30 p.m.
After playing to a 1-1 tie and winning in PKs (5-4) over No. 1 Pajaro Valley on Saturday, SHP nearly duplicated that effort in Wedneday's semifinals.
After Santa Cruz had gone ahead, the Gators tied the match in the 65th minute after a corner kick found Cam Chapman. He first headed the ball into a group in front of the goal and, when the ball bounced back to him he returned a shot into the back post.
Once in penalty kicks, sophomore keeper Zach Haire (returning from illness) made three huge saves to send SHP into its second CCS Division III title match since 2013.