With only four matches left in the regular season, the Menlo School girls' soccer team is sitting atop the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) standings for the first time this late in the season since joining the league in 2009.
During the past three seasons, the Knights were battling for second place at this time of the season and usually not doing a very good job of it while finishing third all three times. This year, however, is very different.
Menlo held on to first place with a 2-0 victory over visiting Kings Academy on Tuesday. The Knights (7-1, 9-4-1) won their sixth straight WBAL contest, five of them by shutout, while maintaining a two-point lead over second-place Sacred Heart Prep, 21-19. Priory also won on Tuesday and now has 18 points.
Only the top two teams will receive automatic berths into the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs, while the third-place team will play the WBAL Skyline Division champ for the league's third section berth.
While Menlo owns the top spot, the division title is still up for grabs among the top three teams. The Knights will host Priory on Thursday (2:45 p.m.), face an always dangerouns Castilleja team on Tuesday, play host to winless Mercy-Burlingame on Feb. 9 before closing the regular season against visiting Sacred Heart Prep on Feb. 14.
Thus, plenty can happen between now and then and probably will.
Menlo took the lead against King's Academy just 18 minutes into the match when sophomore Lindsay Karle won possession of the ball in the box and then slipped a pass to sophomore Chandler Wickers, who scored from 12 yards out. Wickers found the back of the net again on a 10-yard volley off a well-placed cross off the foot of sophomore Jaye Boissiere at 26 minutes.
Menlo's midfield controlled the ball well throughout the match. The defenders -- junior Hannah Rubin, senior Shannon Lacy, sophomore Sienna Stritter, freshmen Alexandra Walker, junior Rachel Pinsker, and junior Ellie Still -- played well, according to coach Donoson FitzGerald, while limiting King's to six shots. Junior goalies Julia Dressel ( 2 saves) and Kelly McConnell (4 saves ) combined on the shutout as King's fell to 2-4 in league (7-5-1 overall).
In Atherton, junior Kendall Jager had a foot in every goal as Sacred Heart Prep blanked Mercy-Burlingame, 3-0. The Gators remained in second place while improving to 6-1-1 in league (8-3-5 overall).
Jager provided the winning goal in the first 10 minutes on an assist from Christine Callinan. In the 37th minute, it was Jager tallying an unassisted goal for a 2-0 halftime lead. In the 56th minute, Meagan Terpening scored off an assist from Jager, who has five goals and three assists in the past three matches -- all victories. Mercy-Burlingame fell to 0-7 in league (2-12 overall).
In San Jose, Priory held off Notre Dame-San Jose, 2-1. Eugenia Jernick gave the Panthers (6-1, 9-3-2) a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute off an assist from Darrah Shields. In the 44th minute, Shields took a pass from Sarah Zuckerman and made it a 2-0 match. The Regents scored on a penalty kick in the 68th minute.
In the WBAL Skyline Division, Pinewood lost an opportunity to grab a share of first place following a 2-2 deadlock with host Crystal Springs on Tuesday in Hillsborough. The Panthers needed a victory to share the top spot with 33 points. Instead, Crystal (11-0-1) moved to 34 points while Pinewood (10-1-1) has 31 with four matches to play.
Pinewood (11-3-2 overall) grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first half when Nicole Colonna scored off an assist from Andrienne Whitlock in the 10th minute and Danielle Man followed four minutes later with an unassisted goal. The Gryphons, however, blanked the Panthers from there and deadlocked the match with goals in the 43rd and 79th minutes.
"The whole game was extremely intense and close," said Pinewood coach Whitney Wood. "We came out really strong and caught them off-guard in the first half.
"In the second, they were more prepared for us, and got an early goal. With about two minutes to go, they got a free kick, which ended up as a goal. It was for first place, so the pressure and tension was high for both teams. It was truly a great game. Unfortunately, we came out short this time."
Since Pinewood and Crystal Springs already have faced each other twice, the Panthers have to hope that another team can upset the Gryphons. Otherwise, Pinewood will lost out on playing for an automatic CCS berth.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton remained in the hunt for a division title following a 4-0 victory over host Burlingame on Tuesday. The Bears improved to 6-2-1 in league (10-4-1 overall). M-A, with 19 points and four straight victories, still sits in third place behind Aragon (7-1-1, 22 points) and Carlmont (6-1-2, 20 points) with five matches remaining.
M-A senior Meryssa Thompson scored one goal and added one assist to lead the way. Senior Jen Kirst provided the first and winning goal, Naomi Pacalin made it a 3-0 match and the Bears got an own goal in the second half to wrap things up. Liz Cruz assisted on Thompson's goal in the first half and Zoe Pacalin assisted on her sister's second-half goal.