Sports

M-A girls snap lacrosse losing streak to rival Menlo School

 

Since beginning league play in 2004, the Menlo School girls have compiled a 126-11 record in lacrosse action. Four of those setbacks have come to rival Menlo-Atherton.

Two of those victories for M-A came in 2007, when the Bears swept the Knights in the Peninsula Athletic League. After that, M-A lost 17 straight regular-season matches to Menlo.

Every streak, however, eventually ends and the Bears snapped their years of futility on Wednesday with a huge 11-9 triumph over the visiting Knights in West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) play.

For M-A's three seniors, it was their first win over Menlo.

"I know for a lot of people it feels like a big upset, especially since we haven't beaten them since 2007," said M-A coach Juliet Mittlemann. "But, when I was hired to run this program in 2013, I knew this is where we would end up in short time."

The Bears, who lost their first match (12-4) with Menlo this season, improved to 6-3 in league and 10-8 overall while the Knights fell to 7-2 (11-7) and two games behind first-place Sacred Heart Prep (8-0, 14-4), which defeated Castilleja on Wednesday, 16-8.

"A significant and deserved win for M-A today," said Menlo coach Jen Lee.

Said Mittlemann: "From Dec. 1 through mid-May every season, my kids work so incredibly hard. We all work towards the common goal of being the best team possible. This means from the bottom up we strive for greatness in our fitness, preparation, skill, strategy and -- most importantly -- in our mindset."

M-A was playing its third match in three days while Menlo was playing its second in as many days. Both teams were ready for the showdown, with the Bears perhaps better prepared than in their first meeting.

"We won because we were supposed to win," said Mittlemann. "We have done everything possible to set ourselves up for success and our hard work and perseverance won us that game. We were prepared and our preparedness helped the girls cope with their nervousness."

Menlo grabbed a 5-4 halftime lead, but the Bears battled back and scored three times in the opening five minutes to lead by 7-5 as Annie Payne, Sally Carlson (twice) finding the net. When M-A's Grace Tully converted from a free position for an 8-meter foul by Menlo, it was 8-5 with 19:14 left to play.

Carlson then scored her third goal of the match to make it 9-5 with 15:14 left. Menlo answered with key draw possessions and caused-turnovers and Kaitlin Frangione scored with six minutes remaining. Tully tallied her third goal on an assist from Payne and it was 10-7 with 5:46 to go.

When Nikky Price scored for Menlo with 5:18 left, Menlo's deficit was down to two. Just 17 seconds later, Menlo's Indira Varma fed Frangione for her fifth goal of the match and it was 10-9 with plenty of time left at 4:43.

Despite several possession changes and opportunities, Menlo was unable to tie it up again. Payne made sure of that by scoring her fourth goal (to go along with two assists) with a minute remaining.

Payne scored twice in each half on her way to a six-point day. Carlson converted three of just four shots, as did Tully.

"Our marquee players (Carlson, Tully, Payne) all stepped up their games and we all followed in pursuit of that tone," said Mittlemann. "So, while it still and may continue to remain as a shock to most, this is the team I see daily in practice. This is our potential playing out before everyone's eyes to see. There is nothing more that I have wanted for this team than for them to be able to fight and drive towards fulfilling their potential on a game stage.

Frangione was perfect on her shots as she converted all five as Menlo out-shot M-A, 16-15 and won the contested ground-ball battle, 16-9. The Bears, however, had the most important stat of the day -- the victory.

"This feeling they have now experienced and retained will be remembered forever and indubitably make them better athletes and better teammates. That in my mind is what yesterday's 'W' was all about. Strategically, it was our style of M-A lacrosse. Possession, high-percentage shooting, defensive turnovers, early slides, run our plays . . . No different than any other game or team we play. No special scouting or warmups, etc. We played some music, did our pre-game routine and just simply showed up to fight."

The teams could meet again, in the WBAL playoffs, after wrapping up their regular seasons next week. Menlo will host SHP on Tuesday, in a match that most likely has little impact on the final standings.

Sacred Heart Prep opened a seemingly insurmountable lead over Menlo following its win over visiting Castilleja and M-A's big triumph.

Junior Cameron Gordon led SHP with four goals and four assists with Libby Muir and Emma Johnson each adding four goals and two assists. Juliana Clark and Allison Carter each contributed two goals and a combined three assists.

Castilleja (3-5, 8-7) got three goals plus six assists from freshman Taylor DeGroff with senior Ellie Chan contributing three goals.

In the SCVAL, host Gunn suffered a 13-8 loss to Leland and dropped to 9-4 in league (11-8 overall) heading into Friday's Senior Night at home against Saratoga at 7:30 p.m.

Grace Williams led the Titans with three goals, Laurel Comiter had two and Andrea Garcia-Milla, Yui Sasajima and Gillian King each had one goal. Goalkeeper Ruby Robinson had 6 saves.

Baseball

Sacred Heart Prep's playoff hopes might have taken a hit following a 3-2 loss to visiting Hillsdale in PAL Bay Division action Wednesday. The Gators fell to 7-6 in league (10-15 overall) and dropped into a tie for third with the Knights.

Fortunately for SHP, Sequoia dropped a 2-1 decision to second-place Carlmont (9-4) and fell to 6-7 in league. That means SHP may need to beat Hillsdale on Friday to secure an automatic berth into the Central Coast Section playoffs, should Sequoia beat Carlmont on Friday.

Girls swimming

Menlo-Atherton put itself in good position to capture the title at the PAL Bay Division Championships following a solid day of qualifying at Wednesday's trials at Woodside High.

The Bears, who won the regular-season dual-meet title, went one-two in the 200 free and 100 fly with sophomore transfer Izzi Henig winning both races. She took the 200 free in 1:55.74 and the fly in 59.35.

M-A also had four qualifiers for the finals in the 100 free and three each in the 200 IM, 500 free and 100 back.

The boys' trials will be Thursday, with the finals Saturday at Woodside starting at 1 p.m. The championships had been held at Burlingame High the previous 16 straight years.

Boys tennis

Menlo-Atherton opened its quest for a section title by rolling over host Westmont, 7-0, in the CCS Team Tournament on Wednesday in Campbell.

The Bears (18-4), who were surprisingly snubbed when the top eight seeds were handed out, likely will be playing with a chip on their shoulder throughout the tourney after compiling a 14-0 record in the PAL Bay Division.

Westmont provided little opposition for M-A, with only one match going beyond two sets. Casey Morris dropped his opening set at No. 1 singles, but rallied for a 4-6, 6-2, 11-9 triumph. Reed Fratt, Axel Brenner and Jeffrey Jorgenson all won in straight sets while losing only a combined three games.

The doubles tandems of Jack Jensen/Timmy Berthier, Noah Milman/Camillo Saueressig and Nishant Relan/Eric Laderman all won in straight sets for the Bears, who will visit No. 6 Homestead (15-4) for a second-round match Friday at 3 p.m.

In another opener, Sacred Heart Prep put up a fight before dropping a 4-3 decision to Mitty at Bay Club Santa Clara. The Gators (16-7) managed just one singles victory, from Max Cluss at No. 4, 6-2, 6-0. Faced with needing to sweep the doubles, the Gators won at No. 2 and 3 but dropped a three-setter at No. 1.

In other second-round matches on Friday, No. 8 Gunn (11-7) will host Harker (14-6) and No. 1 Menlo School (16-3) will host Monterey (11-4), both at 3 p.m.

— Keith Peters/Palo Alto Online Sports

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