The upcoming West Bay Athletic League lacrosse playoffs have just taken on a more dramatic look and the Menlo School girls are to be thanked for that.
Sacred Heart Prep appeared headed into the playoffs with an undefeated league record and plenty of momentum, including an overtime victory over Menlo on April 6.
The Knights, however, put a stop to the perfect season and the Gators' momentum with a stunning 11-7 triumph on Tuesday on the final day of the WBAL Foothill Division regular season.
Sacred Heart Prep (9-1, 15-5) is still the regular-season champ and will be the top seed for the playoffs, which start this weekend. Menlo, the defending league and playoff champ, is the No. 2 seed.
Both teams will have byes into Saturday's semifinals, with both squads hosting. The rivals are favored to advance to next Tuesday's playoff finale at Palo Alto High at 7 p.m.
Menlo's victory on Tuesday perhaps sent a message that the Knights are never to be counted out. Menlo scored the first three goals of the match and grabbed a 5-2 halftime lead.
The Knights came out of intermission and scored two unanswered goals -- by Allison Liddle and Indira Varma -- for a 7-2 lead.
SHP senior Libby Muir, who is headed to Stanford next season, scored her first goal of the game, but Menlo senior Nikky Price answered and it was 8-3. Muir got one back with her final tally with 14:30 remaining, but Price once again scored (her fourth goal) on a free-position shot to keep it at 9-4.
Juliana Clark tallied her second goal for a 9-5 match, but Menlo answered with freshman Charlotte Swisher's goal for a 10-5 match. After Menlo called time, SHP responded with back-to-back goals to narrow its deficit to just 10-7. With just three seconds remaining, Price scored her fifth goal to put the finishing touches on the big victory.
"The whole team contributed today to earn a significant win for the season," said Menlo coach Jen Lee. "The defense was dialed in, led by senior captain Chelsea Sahami, and they locked on as SHP fired exactly the same number of shots as Menlo (14)."
Menlo goalie Alena Stern had six saves while seven different Knights combined to help win 13 total draws. Five different players helped cause seven turnovers and seven others worked to pick up 12 different contested ground balls.
Along with Price's five goals, Menlo got three goals plus two assists from Varma and two goals from Liddle. Muir, Clark and Cameron Gordon all had two goals for the Gators, who won back-to-back league titles in 2013 and '14 but had that streak snapped by Menlo last season.
It was Senior Day at Menlo and three senior captains from Menlo (Sahami, Price and Kaitlin Frangione) and five seniors from SHP (Caroline Buchsbaum, Pippa Thompson, Emma Johnson, Muir and Clark) were honored before the game.
In another regular-season final, host Menlo-Atherton celebrated Senior Day with a 17-6 victory over Castilleja.
Grace Tully tallied five goals to lead M-A (7-3, 11-8), which will be the No. 3 seed for the WBAL playoffs. Sally Carlson, Emma Easton and Izzy Regonini all tallied three goals for the Bears, with Carlson providing three assists.
The M-A defense, sparked by the play of Elena Fox, held the Gators (4-6, 9-8) scoreless for 10 minutes in each half. M-A goalie Samantha Gamez had 13 saves while Bea Geaghan-Breiner, Kelly Woods and Izzy Carhart all contributed to the victory.
Castilleja got two goals from Laurel Nelson and one each from fellow seniors Ellie Chen and Celeste Woloshyn.
Menlo School advanced to the quarterfinals of the PAL Tournament with a big 14-5 victory over host Sequoia on Tuesday. The Knights (20-6) will visit PAL Bay Division co-champ Carlmont on Wednesday (4:30 p.m.)
Menlo grabbed a 5-0 lead before the Cherokees tallied five runs in the bottom of the third to tie things up. The Knights answered with four runs in the fourth on singles from Griff McGarry, Chandler Yu, David Farnham, Davis Rich and Ben Somorjai.
Menlo took a 1-0 lead in the first when RJ Babiera led off with double and scored on Rylan Pade's double. Pade finished with three RBI. Menlo added a run in the second and three more in the third, highlighted by a sacrifice fly by Somorjai and a two-out, bases-loaded walk to Jared Lucian, who scored three runs. Somorjai finished with three hits.
In other tournament games, Woodside routed Menlo-Atherton, 18-7; King's Academy eliminated Burlingame, 6-1; and Hillsdale edged San Mateo, 6-5.
Sacred Heart Prep will host King's Academy at 4 p.m. Quarterfinal winners play Thursday at the highest-seeded team with the championship game set for Friday at Half Moon Bay at 4 p.m.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division playoffs, Palo Alto got seven solid innings from Justin Hull but couldn't generate enough offense and dropped a 2-1 decision in eight innings to host Los Gatos.
The Vikings (21-5-1) managed just four hits, getting their lone run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Alec Olmstead as the Wildcats grabbed the opener in the best-of-three series to decide the overall league championship.
The teams will meet again Thursday at Palo Alto at 4 p.m. Los Gatos won the regular-season title with Paly taking second. Both teams will advance to next week's CCS playoffs.
Castilleja kept its title hopes alive in the WBAL Foothill Division with a 6-3 victory over visiting Mercy-Burlingame on Tuesday. Tara Thakurta (13-7) pitched a complete-game six hitter with nine strikeouts. Kate Wang led the Gators (7-1, 13-7) on offense with two hits, including a home run, and three RBI.
Castilleja will host Notre Dame-SJ and King's will face Harker in games Wednesday. Castilleja then will host first-place King's Academy (8-0) on Friday (4:30 p.m.) with a chance to tie for the regular-season title.
Defending champion and top-seeded Menlo School (18-3) will take on No. 4 Bellarmine (15-6-1) in the semifinals of the CCS Team Tournament on Wednesday at Bay Club Courtside in Los Gatos at 1:30 p.m.
The showdown will be a rematch of last year's title match won by Menlo, 5-2.
The Knights advanced with a 7-0 victory over No. 8 seed Gunn (12-8) while the Bells eliminated No. 5 St. Francis, 4-3. In another quarterfinal, Menlo-Atherton (19-5) was eliminated by No. 3 Saratoga, 4-3.
Menlo moved a step closer to securing a record eighth consecutive title by winning every match in straight sets. The Knights swept the singles behind sophomore Siddharth Chari (6-2, 6-1), senior Nathan Safran (6-2, 6-0), sophomore Clark Safran (6-1, 6-0) and freshman Andrei Volgin (6-2, 6-4).
Veteran experience led the way in doubles with seniors Gabriel Morgan and Alex Neumann winning at No. 1 (6-0, 6-0), junior Mark Ball and senior Michael Quezada winning at No. 2 (6-2, 6-0) and senior Dylan Pace joining with sophomore Bo Leschly at No. 3 (6-1, 6-1).
In Saratoga, Menlo-Atherton saw its highly successful tennis season come to an end to the Falcons (14-2). The Bears got a victory at No. 1 singles from Casey Morris, who defeated Karthik Padmanabhan, 3-6, 1-0 retired. At No. 1 doubles, M-A's Timmy Berthier and Jack Jensen defeated Naved Krishnamurthy and Matthew Kermin, 4-6, 7-6 (5) 10-8, and the Bears' No. 2 tandem of Noah Milman and Camillo Saueressig prevailed over David Berkowitz and Abhay Anabathula, 6-2, 6-1.