Palo Alto girls win league lacrosse playoff title in dramatic fashion


There aren't enough teams to hold a Central Coast Section tournament in girls lacrosse, but Palo Alto and Gunn still managed to bring the season to an incredibly dramatic end.

After Gunn sophomore Janis Iourovitski tied the SCVAL De Anza Division playoff final with 1.1 seconds left in regulation, Paly's Allie Peery scored with 12.9 seconds left in the second overtime period to give the host Vikings a 12-11 win and their second straight playoff title on Saturday, the third overall in program history.

Paly (18-1) had won all 12 of its division games by at least three goals in the regular season, including a pair of four-goal wins over Gunn.

"It's good for the girls," Paly coach Jamie Nesbitt said. "Coming into it we hadn't had to deal with a lot of adversity like that, so I think it's fun to have a couple of those."

The third meeting between the teams looked like it would be another comfortable win for host Paly when the Vikings led 7-3 at halftime and 8-4 with 20 minutes to go.

But the Titans (14-5), whose only two league losses were to Paly, scored four straight goals over a span of 8:09 to set up the thrilling finish. Senior co-captain Rachael Tsai tied the game at 8 when she circled around from behind the goal and shot into the upper corner with 11:44 to play in the second half.

Paly regained the lead on a free position shot by Maya Benatar with 8:03 remaining, and the Vikings stayed in front when Meredith Kinnaman saved a spinning shot by Tsai from in close with five minutes left. But Gunn tied the game again when junior Annie Vesey beat her defender and scored with 1:21 to play.

Paly retook the lead when Claire Chevallier controlled the ensuing draw and Lauren Gargiulo circled the crease and scored with 43 seconds left, but Gunn had one more comeback. Vesey won the next draw and, after a time out, Anna Dang found Iourovitski in front of the goal. Iourovitski scored with 1.1 seconds left to send the game into overtime at 10-10.

"I think what happens with us sometimes is we get a little bit tight, and we get out of what we do," Gunn coach Doug Arakawa said. "But the team has definitely been peaking, and in years past maybe we haven't been peaking toward the playoffs, but this year we were playing our best lacrosse in the end and I think it showed because we gave them all they could handle."

That set up two three-minute overtime periods. Neither team did much in the first session -- Kinnaman saved Vesey in the period's only shot on goal -- but there was still time for more drama.

Iourovitski scored the first goal of extra time with 1:20 remaining to put Gunn in front, 11-10, but that only seemed to spark Paly's offense.

"I think it was the reality check of, hey we need to actually step up and do something," Nesbitt said. "I think we were waiting for something good to happen instead of doing it ourselves."

Peery controlled the ensuing draw and set up the tying goal just 10 seconds later -- by Paige Bara -- and then scored the winner off an assist from Gargiulo with 12.9 seconds left.

"They deserve it," Nesbitt said. "The season they've had, it would have been a shame to have it go the other way just because of an off day, so I'm glad that they were able to rally around all these situations happening to get this one."

Peery had five goals and Bara had three goals in the game. Both are seniors. Gunn got three goals from Tsai and Vesey with Caroline Chou adding two.

Paly beat Gunn for the ninth time in 10 games dating to 2011, but the Titans' JV team went 14-1 this season and Saturday's finish left Arakawa with reasons for optimism.

"Paly hadn't lost but one game the whole year and they completely boat-raced our league, and they beat us twice in the regular season, so I'm extremely happy with the way this team played," Arakawa said.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


9 people like this
Posted by Proud Mum
a resident of Green Acres
on May 17, 2015 at 11:58 am

Congratulations to both teams who played the best game so far. I am especially proud of Titans who showed the ultramost resillience to come back with this incredible finish! Doug is the best coach and an incredible person. Like all members of his both JV and V teams he gave his all in this season!!! Congratulations to all members especially seniors to the best season ever! We are all very proud of you! All the best for your future!

17 people like this
Posted by Paly Fan
a resident of Community Center
on May 17, 2015 at 1:11 pm

So proud of Paly Lady Vikes for beating Gunn all THREE games this year:) Even with questionable calls from the ref, Lady Vikes prevailed and are now SCVAL Champs for the SECOND year in a row! There's no stopping these girls.

6 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 18, 2015 at 10:18 am

Did you know that Peninsula Sports Inc. is looking for HS referees in all sports? Instead of criticizing a HS ref, why don't you put your whistle where your mouth is and get on the field?

Like this comment
Posted by Dan Nesbitt
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2016 at 8:11 pm

Jamie Nesbitt is my choice as Best Coach, Of course I'm biased. But both coaches must be very proud of the heart and grit of their athletes and teams. Well played ladies!
The Coach's Dad

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Simply Sandwiches shutters in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 9 comments | 3,137 views

More Stupid Plastic Food Things
By Laura Stec | 9 comments | 1,538 views

Operation Varsity Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 4 comments | 1,328 views

Couples: Write a Personal Ad . . . to Your Partner . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,209 views

State Legislature on Housing: Getting the Demos out of Democracy & with it, Accountability
By Douglas Moran | 5 comments | 1,160 views


Short story writers wanted!

The 33rd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 29. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

Contest Details