The Sacred Heart Prep boys' soccer team came into this season never having lost to rival Menlo School in West Bay Athletic League action. That streak remains intact.
In a showdown between two teams with identical league and overall marks while sharing first place in the WBAL, visiting Sacred Heart Prep took over sole possession of first place with a 1-0 victory on Wednesday.
The Gators improved to 6-0 in league (9-2-1 overall) while the Knights fell to 5-1 (8-3-1). SHP is 7-0-2 against Menlo since both teams began WBAL play in 2009. Prior to that, the Knights competed in the Peninsula Athletic League and the Gators played in the PSAL's fall schedule.
Sacred Heart Prep's Andrew Segre provided the winning goal in the 27th minute, taking a pass from Robert Hellman and dodging an onrushing Menlo keeper Timmy Costa, before finding the back of the net in an open cage.
"I was happy with our intensity and team attitude, and while we moved the ball and touched the ball with more ease, I felt we were too tense," said SHP coach Armando del Rio. "We are capable of playing at a faster tempo with the ball on the ground. When we combined quickly and decisively on the ground, we created. For instance, our goal was an excellent execution of combination play, quick touches, great final pass, poised finish by Andrew Segre.
"In the second half, they sent more numbers forward, and they are capable of creating havoc off of loose balls and set pieces. I was proud of our fierce defending as a team, our goalie (Hugo Sanchez) and our backline. I thought we managed the lead well through unnerving moments. Our experience and character prevailed."
Despite coming into the game tied for first, Menlo was shorthanded with a number of injuries. Standout freshman Andrew Arnold, for example, suffered a skiing injury last weekend during a school trip and landed in a Reno hospital. Two other Menlo players were sidelined by concussions. Bottom line, the Knights were not at full strength.
"I know they were missing a key starter (Andrew) Schmitt, but we also had a starter out with mono and players sick," del Rio said. "Last week the flu went through us like a plague and now it's the cold. So one of our mottos is next man up because we trust our players to make an impact when called upon, and our ethos is win the day, live/play/enjoy/focus on the current moment. We can't worry who we have or don't have and the same for the opponent because right now illness and injury is present for all."
Despite all the health and injury problems, Menlo started strongly and had a chance to take the lead in the opening minutes. Junior John Strong took the ball past several SHP defenders down the left wing, but his cross was just in front of senior captain Max Parker.
From there SHP took control of the first half, dominating possession and winning countless loose balls in midfield. After getting the winning goal, midway through the half, Sacred Heart Prep controlled the rest of the half and was unfortunate not to add to its tally.
The Knights came out with renewed vigor in the second half. They had a few good chances after three successive corner kicks, but Sanchez was solid in the cage. Menlo senior Ryan Karle nearly evened the match a few minutes later with a solid volley, but again Sanchez was up to the task.
"Menlo has a great team," del Rio said. "It was a competitive game and it will be again at our place. To us, every league game is a big game and a rivalry because everyone plays us with everything. It's why league play is tough and why we must always move on, win the day, and live out our ethos, because we must always be sharp and at our best."