By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
It was difficult to tell the outcome of the 2013 Central Coast Section Division III boys' soccer championship match by looking at the teams following the final whistle.
The Menlo School players were smiling and happy, hugging each other and celebrating their hard-earned result. The Sacred Heart Prep players, meanwhile, had their heads in their hands and appeared crushed.
So much for appearances. The players were simply exhibiting their emotions following a 1-1 deadlock that resulted in a co-championship on Saturday at Oak Grove High in San Jose. The Knights were happy as co-champs and the Gators were not.
"They're not happy," SHP coach Armando del Rio said of his players. "They really feel like they lost. I saw some players crying who I had never seen cry before.
"We won league and beat them (the Knights) twice (during the regular season). We knew we were the better team . . . We had 100 minutes to prove it . . . We had never lost to them, but Menlo was hungrier than ever. We were a little too tense; we didn't enjoy the match. I told the team, 'Guys, we didn't lose.' But, they're taking it as a loss."
Menlo took it otherwise.
"I'm fine with a championship banner, either way," said Menlo senior Ryan Karle. "We've never had one up in the gym, now we will. That's our legacy. When we return 10 years from now, that banner will still be up in the gym."
Added fellow senior Max Parker: "We've never won. They won seven titles in the fall. I would have been so happy with anything today."
Perhaps the emotional differences stemmed from the fact that Sacred Heart Prep had never lost to Menlo during five years in the West Bay Athletic League, going 8-0-2 during that time. The Gators also had those seven CCS Division III titles and seven runner-up finishes during the fall from 1988-2007.
Menlo, meanwhile, has never won a WBAL title and never beaten the Gators. Prior to this season, the Knights had never won more than one match in postseason play. Thus, Menlo's goals for this season were pretty simple, especially with a new head coach in Marc Kerrest.
"We wanted to win league, beat Prep and win a CCS game," said Karle. "We didn't do two of those, but we exceeded my expectations, so I'm really happy about it."
"I wasn't immediately satisfied," Parker said of the tie. "But now, it's sinking in."
The No. 5-seeded Gators (18-2-4) grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first half when junior Andrew Segre curved a shot past Menlo keeper Timmy Costa with 4:45 remaining before intermission.
In the second half, Parker was taken down in the penalty box by SHP keeper Hugo Sanchez. Costa left his goalie position and took the penalty kick, which he converted for a 1-1 deadlock with 24:30 remaining in regulation.
While he had scored a couple of goals while playing in the field this season, this was the first time Costa scored while playing keeper the entire game.
"It was awesome," the senior said.
The match ended tied in regulation, with the teams then playing two 10-minute overtime periods with neither squad scoring -- despite having opportunities. The match ended there, rather than going to penalty kicks.
Both teams came up with solid defensive efforts to turn back numerous near-misses by the offenses. Protecting Costa in goal was Justin Wang, Matt Myers, Mason Brady and Andrew Stepien. Helping out Sanchez was SHP's back line of Derek and Grant Chou plus Tommy Meaney.
But, it was much more than just those players as everyone seemingly contributed at some point in a match where both teams deserved to leave with a trophy. They were that even on this day.
While the No. 10-seed Knights (15-5-4) earned their first-ever section title, the Gators notched their eighth overall. Both teams left everything on the field and were exhausted by game's end. Thus, it was easy to be elated or deflated.
"Coming into this game, they had beaten us twice," Kerrest said. "But, at the end of the day I'm proud of my guys. We won a championship this year. We're CCS (co-) champions. A great way to end the season. I just feel good for the seniors."
Said Karle: "We're going out with a bang."