By Keith Peters
The best offense is a good defense. Armando del Rio won't argue with that. His Sacred Heart Prep boys' soccer team has allowed only four goals in eight matches this season.
Not too surprising, the Gators are 8-0. Their latest defensive gem came Wednesday in a 2-0 victory over host Priory in a key West Bay Athletic League showdown.
"We did what we needed to do," del Rio told his team after the important win, which moved the Gators to 3-0 in the WBAL heading into Friday's match at rival Menlo School at 2:45 p.m.
While the focus on this season's team may be on an offense that has scored 36 goals in eight matches, the Gators' defense has been superb.
Priory was expected to provide SHP with its toughest match to date, based on its 3-1 victory over Menlo last week. The Panthers had two standout offensive players in seniors Guillermo Talancon and Evan Filipczyk plus talented sophomore keeper Evan Finney.
"We knew it was going to be a difficult game," said del Rio, making his return to the school where he coached the Priory girls' team last season. "We expected this game to be the toughest of the year . . . We did a solid job after the first 20 minutes."
While neither team scored during that time, Priory's dangerous transition offense forced SHP out of its game plan, which actually helped in the long run. By playing the Panthers' game early on, the spacing created by that transition game allowed SHP to eventually take advantage.
Sacred Heart finally cashed in early in the second half when freshman Isaac Polkinhorne took a cross from sophomore Joselph Bolous in the 44th minute and one-touched it off Finney's hand and into the net for a 1-0 lead. It was Polkinhorne's 10th goal of the season.
In the 68th minute, Robert Ojeda began the second scoring play by dribbling around the Priory defense before passing to Bolous, who finished for a 2-0 lead.
Talancon and Filipczyk both had good shots on goal in the second half, but SHP keeper Max Polkinhorne was able to deny both. He had eight saves alone in the first half.
SHP defenders Andrew Liotta (junior), Christian Thaure (senior) and Nick Salzman (sophomore) helped finish off the shutout after sophomore Tommy Meaney was forced to leave after taking an elbow to the back of his head. Liotta blanked Talancon while Kyle Scherba and Jack Odell shadowed Filipczyk, with help from Ojeda in the second half.
In another WBAL match, freshman Matt Myers scored two goals and assisted on another to pace the host Menlo School to a 4-0 victory over Crystal Springs on Wednesday. The Knights (2-1, 2-3-1) got the game-winner when Myers scored an unassisted goal in the fifth minute.
Myers made it 2-0 off an assist from senior captain Sam Parker in the 38th minute. Ryan Karle finished off a ball from Myers in the 52nd minute while the fourth goal was scored by keeper-turned-striker Tommy Costa, who finished off a nice cross from Parker.
Central defenders Alec Drobac (junior) and Jack Redman (sophomore) joined with junior outside back Zach Chase for strong defensive efforts. Sophomore Nick Batchelder and senior Ethan Leibovich did a good job controlling the midfield.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, sophomore Skyler Felt broke a scoring drought with a goal off an assist from Zac Hummel with 13 minutes gone in the second half to propel Palo Alto to a 2-0 victory over host Santa Clara.
Felt also assisted on Rick Minno's goal 10 minutes later to give the Vikings (2-0, 6-2-1) some breathing room. Paly had additional scoring threats in the first half against the Bruins, who decided to play more defensively with a counter-attacking offense.
Palo Alto will host rival Gunn (0-1-1, 0-5-3) in the first of two meetings on Friday at 3:30 p.m. Gunn battled Saratoga (1-1-1, 5-1-4) to a scoreless draw on Wednesday.
Up-and-down Menlo-Atherton was down for its PAL Bay Division opener, dropping a 50-46 decision to host El Camino on Wednesday. The Bears (0-1, 7-8) fell into an 18-9 hole after one quarter and never could overtake the Colts.
Myles Brewer led M-A with 16 points while 6-foot-6 Marquise Tolson added 10 points and 13 rebounds. Michael Culhane grabbed 10 boards and added nine points for the Bears.