By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
The Sacred Heart Prep boys' soccer team wrapped up its fifth straight West Bay Athletic League title with one match remaining in the regular season following a 2-0 victory over visiting Menlo School on Wednesday.
The Gators improved to 11-0-2 in league (14-2-3 overall) while the Knights concluded their regular season at 9-3-2 (12-5-3) and in second place. Both teams advance to the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs beginning next week.
Menlo needed a victory plus a SHP loss to King's Academy on Friday in order to tie the Gators for first place. Sacred Heart Prep, meanwhile, needed only a tie to claim the crown.
"We wanted to make sure we didn't share it," said SHP coach Armando del Rio, who now has won three consecutive league titles since taking over for Matt Dodge. "We didn't go into this game thinking we were going to tie."
Both SHP goals came after throw-ins, the first by Nick Salzman in the 31st minute of the first half on an assist by Ricky Grau. Matt Denton made the throw-in, which Grau volleyed to Salzman for the goal.
In the second half, Denton made another long throw-in that was first headed by Robert Hellman, who deflected it to Willy Lamb. He turned and rifled a hard shot past Menlo keeper Timmy Costa for a 2-0 advantage with just under eight minutes to play.
"It's a game of inches," said Menlo first-year coach Marc Kerrest. "They scored two goals on throw-ins; we didn't score goals . . . in the next game we have, if we make those mistakes we won't have another game."
Menlo had more scoring opportunities in the first half, but each was thwarted. Senior Ryan Karle was involved in a couple of sequences that nearly produced goals for the Knights, but SHP's defense and keeper Hugo Sanchez came up with saves each time.
Sacred Heart Prep continued its mastery over Menlo in WBAL play by moving to 8-0-2 all-time against the Knights since both began competing against each other in the league in 2009. Prior to that, SHP played in the fall and Menlo in the Peninsula Athletic League.
In Portola Valley, host Priory wrapped up its season with a 3-2 victory over visiting Crystal Springs on Senior Day. After falling behind 1-0, Max Reines got the equalizer for the Panthers just before halftime.
Trailing 2-1 in the second half, Sergio Lopez assisted on a goal by Austin Mirabella for the tie. The game-winning goal came late in stoppage time when Joe Farned chipped a through ball to fellow senior captain Cesar Perez, who controlled the pass before sending an unstoppable volley into the side netting for the win.
In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Palo Alto capped its regular season with a 2-1 win over host Cupertino. After failing to win a single match last season in the SCVAL De Anza Division, the Vikings made a massive improvement to finish 8-3-1 in the El Camino.
The Vikings (13-5-2 overall) now will await for this weekend's seeding meeting to see if they have qualified for the CCS playoffs.
Cupertino grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute and made it hold up for the halftime lead. The Pioneers played a defensive game after the initial goal and continued to frustrate Paly's opportunities.
The game stayed tight, even after Paly's first goal with Cupertino continuing a tough defensive stand. The game finally opened up after a Cina Vazir shot bounced off the cross bar and Chris Meredith nailed a header into the upper right corner for the deciding goal. Vazir got the equalizer.
Alex Chin, Kirby Gee, Jacob Dorward, Steve Blatman, and Neal Biswah teamed together to limit Cupertino to two shots on goal in the game.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, visiting Gunn dropped a 1-0 decision to Mountain View. The Titans finished their season 3-8-1 in league (5-13-2 overall) and on a seven-match losing streak.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton (6-6-2, 9-7-3) wrapped up its regular season with a 2-0 loss to host Woodside.
Gunn saw its five-game win streak end and its title hopes disappear in the SCVAL De Anza Division following a 56-46 loss at Wilcox on Wednesday. The Titans (8-3, 15-6) were outscored 21-7 in the second quarter.
Olivia Tapia led Gunn with 15 points, all on three-pointers, while Zoe Zwerling added 12 points. The Titans once again played without senior point guard Claire Klausner, sidelined by a reported case of mononucleosis.