The second half of league play is just beginning for the Palo Alto boys in SCVAL De Anza Division soccer action and the Vikings remain on pace for perhaps an historic season.
When Palo Alto established a program-best 21-1-3 record in 2009 on the way to tying Bellarmine for the Central Coast Section Division I title that year, the Vikings were 11-1-2 after their first 14 matches.
Following a frustrating 2-2 deadlock with visiting Los Gatos on Wednesday, Palo Alto is 12-0-2 after 14 matches.
The Vikings lost a chance to equal the 2009 team's record of allowing just one goal in league play by giving up the two goals to Los Gatos. Paly now has allowed three, including one to Gunn.
The two goals were the most given up by Paly this season as the Vikings now have outscored the opposition by 39-5 heading into Friday's showdown at Homestead at 3:30 p.m.
Despite the tie, Palo Alto remains alone in first place as Homestead (3-1-3) suffered a 1-1 tie with Fremont on Wednesday.
Palo Alto actually was fortunate to come away with a tie after trailing 1-0 in the second half and then 2-1 following two defensive mistakes.
"I would say we were fortunate that we came back from those two defensive mistakes; very uncharacteristic," said Paly coach Don Briggs. "Take away our two defensive gaffes and we would have been OK. But, all in all, I was impressed by our team's resiliency, considering we were never ahead. We have been behind only twice this year.
"That they fought back twice after two defensive miscues was good, as some teams would check out -- especially after that second one."
Los Gatos went ahead 1-0 with 15 minutes gone in the second half. Paly rallied with Allesandro Reale scoring off an assist from fellow senior Roberto Sotelo about 12 minutes later.
After the Wildcats took the lead again with 32 minutes gone, Paly battled back five minutes later with Sotelo scoring an unassisted goal.
The defensive miscues occurred when a Paly defender failed to communicate with keeper Eli Friedlander, which led to one goal. Later, a Los Gatos clear went over the midfield line and Paly made another mistake that led to an open net.
In Mountain View, Gunn (0-5-2, 0-10-2) remained winless following a 2-0 loss to the Spartans.
In the West Bay Athletic League, Menlo School will have a shot at tying for first place after handing visiting Crystal Springs a 2-1 loss on Wednesday. The Knights improved to 4-1-1 in league (8-3-1 overall) and extended their winning streak to five matches while setting up a showdown with first-place King's Academy (5-0-1) on Friday in Atherton at 2:45 p.m.
Menlo had several chances in the first half, but was stymied by the post and a standout performance from the Gryphons' keeper. The Knights opened the scoring a few minutes into the second half off a corner from sophomore winger Dylan Williams that junior midfielder Daniel Hausen powerfully headed home.
The goal opened up the game, with Menlo having a few chances to add to its lead while junior goalie Nolan Peterson made a huge save at the other end to keep the Knights ahead. Crystal Springs soon found the equalizer after a striker broke free and beat Peterson to the loose ball. Menlo pushed hard for the winner and found it in the dying minutes. After the Gryphons failed to clear a Menlo corner, the ball fell to Williams at the top of the box. He beat a defender and drilled a low, hard shot into the corner to seal the victory.
In Sunnyvale, Sacred Heart Prep pretty much saw their title hopes end following a 3-0 loss at first-place King's Academy. The Gators dropped to 3-2-1 in league (6-5-3 overall).
In San Jose, Priory dropped a 3-0 decision to host Harker.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton held on to first place with a 3-0 victory over visiting Carlmont. The Bears (6-1, 10-2) grabbed a 2-0 halftime lead as Alex Brenner scored off an assist from Ethan Oro and Quinn Rowland followed up with a goal. In the second half, Oro and Rowland teamed up for the final goal as Rowland assisted.
Carlmont fell to 4-3 in league (9-3-1 overall) and into fourth place behind Sequoia (5-2) and Aragon (4-2-1). The second half of the league season begins Friday. M-A and Sequoia will meet on Feb. 5 on the Bears' field with first place at stake. M-A is the defending Bay Division champ.
Palo Alto remained tied for first place in the SCVAL De Anza Division soccer race following a 1-0 victory over host Los Gatos on Wednesday. The Vikings improved to 6-0-1 in league and 11-0-1 overall thanks to Alison Lu's header off a Bella Bonomi corner in the 12th minute. Talia Malchin cleared a ball off the line midway through the first half to preserve the lead.
In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Gunn battled back from a one-goal deficit in the first half to post a 2-1 victory over visiting Los Altos. The Titans improved to 5-2 in the division and 7-5 overall while remaining within reach of first-place Fremont, which hosts Gunn on Friday at 3:30 p.m.
After giving up a goal to the Eagles early in the eighth minute, Gunn senior defenders Kirsten Butner, Robin Waymouth and Annie Vesey recovered and anchored a strong defense with support from some very timely saves by senior keeper Sara Zhang. Offensively, the Titans had opportunities to score, but couldn't overcome numerous offside calls.
Right in stride with previous games, the Gunn offense decided to make its mark in the second half with senior Kia Green and freshman Hailey Leclerc gaining the advantage in the middle of the field over a strong Los Altos midfield. Gunn sophomore Natalie Hill converted a penalty kick and then senior Lisa Hao scored the game-winner on a loose ball in the penalty box with about 15 minutes to play.