Girls get down to business with WBAL soccer openers


Soccer season officially gets under way this week in the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) and the underlying question is: who's ready?

Last season's top three teams -- Sacred Heart Prep, Priory and Menlo School -- are a combined 10-8-7 in preseason matches heading into openers on Thursday. Last season, the same three teams were 14-8-6 at the same point.

Priory is the only team of the three to have a better preseason record this season, finishing 5-1-2 after battling for a 1-1 nonleague draw with host Los Altos on Monday.

The teams battled through a scoreless first half, during which Priory dictated play for the first 35 minutes while limiting Los Altos to just three shots. The deadlock continued throughout the second half until the Eagles scored off a counter with 10 minutes to play.

With time running out, the Panthers combined a series of six passes before Molly Simpson threaded the final pass to Eugenia Jernick, who found the back of the net in the final minute of play. Priory will visit Menlo School on Thursday at 2:45 p.m.

The Knights are just 1-3-4 in preseason after going 6-3-1 last season. A lack of scoring has hurt Menlo this year, the latest drought coming Monday in a 2-0 nonleague loss to visiting Mitty.

The Monarchs scored in each half -- the second tally coming on an own goal by Menlo. Knights' coach Donoson FitzGerald continued to split sophomore goalies Julia Dressel and Kelly McConnell. Dressel had eight saves in the first half while McConnell added seven in the second. Junior defender Shannon Lacy played well in defeat.

Sacred Heart Prep (4-4-1) hasn't played since Dec. 30 when the Gators finished the Excalibur Tournament in Southern California by reaching the semifinals and then losing in the third-place match to Santa Margarita, 1-0, in overtime. Sacred Heart opens WBAL action Thursday at home against Mercy-Burlingame at 2:45 p.m.

Sacred Heart Prep has scored eight goals in nine matches, but has given up seven. After this Thursday's Priory-Menlo showdown, the next big test will be Jan. 25 when Priory visits Sacred Heart Prep at 2:45 p.m.

In other girls' soccer this week:

Palo Alto (1-0, 4-4) has a big SCVAL De Anza Division showdown with visiting Monta Vista on Wednesday on El Camino Field at 3:30 p.m. The Vikings went 0-1-1 against the Matadors last season and lost to them two seasons ago in the CCS Division I finals.

This season, most every league match will be a battle. After Monta Vista, Paly visits Gunn on Friday (6 p.m.) before facing Los Gatos, Los Altos and then league-favorite Mountain View on Jan. 26 on the Vikings' field.

In boys' soccer, Sacred Heart Prep (2-0, 7-0) will put first place in the WBAL on the line Wednesday when the Gators visit Priory at 3 p.m.

-- Palo Alto Online Sports

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