Sacred Heart Prep strikes first in soccer rivalry with Menlo | News | Palo Alto Online |

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Sacred Heart Prep strikes first in soccer rivalry with Menlo

 
Sacred Heart Prep held a 1-0 lead at halftime.

Sacred Heart Prep co-captain Alexi Stravropoulos didn't notice the score until the final whistle. All he knew was how much training his teammates had put in to get to this point and how much more work is ahead.

Stravropoulos scored twice and assisted on another goal as the Gators beat host Menlo School 5-0 in a West Bay Athletic League boys soccer contest that usually goes a long way in deciding the champion.

"We played hard and trusted each other," Stravropoulos said. "Menlo played great. They have talented players and it's always a fun game."

It's the largest margin of victory for either school in the 12-year history of the West Bay Athletic League. The teams were previously in different leagues.

Sacred Heart Prep (7-0-1, 2-0) is 3-2-2 vs. Menlo over their past seven meetings.

"It throws a little more emotion into the game," Stravropoulos said. "We were able to stay composed in front of a big crowd and find the right player."

A Menlo player was shown a red card during the second half, forcing the Knights (6-1-3, 1-1) to play a man down over the final 20 minutes, in which time the Gators scored their final three goals.

Since playing Valley Christian to a scoreless draw in the season opener, Sacred Heart Prep has been tough to stop. The Gators have outscored their opponents 33-1 and recorded seven shutouts.

SHP co-captain Kevin Box takes particular pride in limiting opponents' offenses.

"I'm an outside back at heart, more of a support role," he said. "Our defense trains against the best every day. I think our offense is one of the best in the area. I have faith in the back line to get things done."

Goalie Hank Twichell, who had an assist, recorded a handful of saves in keeping Menlo out of the net.

Box also played water polo (his older brother CJ Box plays for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps) but realized soccer was his passion after suffering a severe ankle injury early last soccer season and missing the rest of SHP's run through the postseason, which ended in a loss to Monterey in the semifinals of the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs.

SHP coach Guillermo Talancon said that loss was a factor in how his team responded this season.

"I told the juniors that we'll be back," he said. "Since that day, these guys have looked to get better and worked even harder. The seniors and juniors have set the tone this season. They want to play at the highest level possible."

Stravropoulos said the loss is "definitely in the back of our minds but we have to focus on our next opponent, how best to play as a unit and developing team chemistry."

Box said the loss stings but even more of a motivator is that the Gators missed last year's Open Division by a half-point in the Central Coast Section ratings.

"So we put together a super hard preseason in an effort to earn points," he said.

Sacred Heart Prep played four teams which were in last year's CCS playoffs, including CCS Division I champion Prospect and CCS Open Division finalist Branham. Menlo lost in the Division II finals to Mitty.

"This game always holds a lot of weight in terms of competition," Talancon said of the rivalry with Menlo. "I think we came in with more of an edge. Hopefully we made our statement."

Liam Johnson assisted on the first goal and scored the second early in the second half with an assist from Ethan Veghte. Carlos Deras and Sam Shepard also scored and Thomas Sullivan added an assist.

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