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by Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Going undefeated in any sport in high school is not easy, whether it's only for the league season or the entire year. At some point, the unbeaten streak always seems to end. The Sacred Heart Prep boys' soccer team faced that moment on Friday, but only for a short while.
Getting three goals in the second half, the Gators averted potentially their first loss in West Bay Athletic League play and posted a 4-1 victory over host Priory in a showdown between the top two teams in the league. Sacred Heart (10-0, 12-3) moved to within one victory of clinching the league crown.
"We escaped with that one," said SHP coach Matt Dodge. "On a sloppy field, it's always sketchy."
Not only were the teams playing on soggy grass, but it was Priory's soggy field – a place where winning streaks can easily go to die. The Gators' streak, however, remains alive as they moved closer to what could be an unbeaten league season.
Sacred Heart Prep has 30 points, four matches remaining and holds a 12-point lead over second-place Priory (6-3, 6-5). The Panthers, with five matches to play, conceivably could still win the league title – only if they win their last five while SHP loses its last four.
While Priory is a potentially dangerous team with offensive threats like Guillermo Talancon and Evan Filipczyk plus standout freshman keeper Evan Finney, Sacred Heart Prep most likely will not be denied.
"These guys do not want to lose," said Dodge. "You can't count these guys out."
If there was a key game at this stage of the season, it was Friday's. The Gators have only Eastside Prep, Crystal Springs, King's Academy and Harker remaining on the schedule. Sacred Heart, of course, already has beaten all four while compiling a 10-match winning streak. The Gators haven't lost since Dec. 9, a nonleague game to Aragon.
Freshman Joseph Bolous scored twice on Friday to pace Sacred Heart, which was still tied (Priory scored on an own goal) until Victor Ojeda was taken down in the penalty box with 43:43 gone in the match. Kyle Scherba converted the penalty kick for the eventual winning goal. Bolous followed with his second goal and Riley Fallon made it 4-1 against Priory's backup keeper late in the match.
Despite the close score until the penalty kick, Sacred Heart pretty much controlled ther flow of the game – even though Priory did a good job of taking away SHP's offensive attack in the middle and forcing the Gators outside. Finney also was outstanding in goal for the Panthers as he made numerous spectacular diving stops, one on a free kick from just outside the penalty box in the second half.
"Their keeper is phenomenal, especially for a freshman," Dodge said. "He's not human!"
"Our keeper, Evan Finney, will be one of the best goalies this league has ever seen by the time he's a senior," said Priory coach Paul Moran. "Even as a freshman, I think the top three keepers without a doubt are him, SHP's and Crystal Springs'."
Despite Finney's excellent goaltending, Sacred Heart Prep was just too deep and had too many weapons for the Priory to contend with.
"Once we scored that penalty kick . . . the guys just got real hungry," Dodge said. "I think this was definitely the hump we needed to get over."
In addition to its offensive standouts, the Gators' back line of defenders Reid Gaa, Andrew Liotta, Cameron Bell and Nick Hutter defended well in front of keeper Max Polkinhorne.
"There's always things that could go differently, but we kind of fell apart after they got the PK," Moran said. "Maybe if Tommy's (Shields) shot off the post went in a few minutes before the PK it might have been different."
In another WBAL match, Menlo (4-4-1, 6-7-1) was upset by host Harker, 2-0, on Friday.
The Castilleja soccer finally made up its rainout with Monte Vista Christian and the wait was well worth it as the Gators posted a 6-0 nonleague triumph at the Mayfield Soccer Complex on Friday, despite rain late in the match. Castilleja improved to 6-4.
The eventual winning goal came just 3:30 into the match when sophomore Emily Mosbacher received a throw-in from Caitlin Colvin and beat two defenders for a goal. Twenty minutes later, Charlotte Geaghan-Breiner sent a crisp pass to Mosbacher, who shot from the top of the box off the inside right post for a 2-0 lead. In the 29th minute Mosbacher dribbled from midfield and passed to Martha Harding, who placed a perfect shot low right for a 3-0 lead.
Two minutes into a rainy second half (both halves were shortened to 35-minutes), Mosbacher took a throw-in from Sara Dawes and placed the ball just out of the keeper's reach. Ten minutes later, Colvin passed to Mosbacher, who scored her fourth goal on a half-volley with the outside of her foot. With eight minutes to play, Meredith Geaghan-Breiner took a goal kick down the right side, passed to Rachel Brownell, who beat several defenders before placing a perfect shot low right for a final score of 6-0.