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By Keith Peters
Sacred Heart Prep girls' soccer coach Jake Moffat likes where his team is today. It's a familiar position that has paid big dividends at the end of the past two seasons.
"This is the third straight year we've been in this position," Moffat said Tuesday after his team rallied to beat visiting Priory, 2-1, in a West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) match. "So, it's a comfortable position to be in."
For the third straight season, the Gators have beaten Priory in their first of two regular-season meetings to grab the early lead in the WBAL. In the previous two years, this early advantage went a long way in helping SHP capture the league title.
Sacred Heart (4-0, 8-4-2) once again is sitting atop the division standings heading into Thursday's crucial match at Menlo (3-0-1, 4-3-5), which moved ahead of Priory (2-1-1, 7-2-3) and into second place following a 3-0 victory over Castilleja on Tuesday.
"If we can beat Menlo, it puts us in a great position," Moffat said.
The Knights have been a factor in the WBAL during the past two seasons. They were the only team to tie Sacred Heart Prep two seasons ago and deadlocked Priory twice last year, preventing the Panthers from possibly tying SHP.
With only a two-point lead over Menlo, Sacred Heart Prep needs a victory in Thursday's showdown at 2:45 p.m. to maintain a solid lead.
The Gators appeared headed for a first-place tie with Menlo as they battled Priory to a 1-1 deadlock deep into their match. SHP senior Abby Dahlkemper changed all that when she rifled a shot off the hands of Priory keeper Liz Oliphant that went over the end line, resulting in a corner kick at the 73rd minute.
Sophia Abuel-Saud placed the corner kick out front of the cage, forcing Oliphant to charge out. Dahlkemper, however, raced in and headed a shot past Oliphant and into the cage for the winning goal.
Dahlkemper also scored in the seventh minute on an assist from Kendall Jager, but Priory countered just two minutes later when Darrah Shields found the net off an assist from Mariana Galvan.
The teams battled evenly after that, before SHP made a push in the second half. Sacred Heart senior Keighley Lane marked the dangerous Galvan all match long and kept her from scoring. Fellow defenders Stephanie Terpening, Lauren Espeseth, Kendall Cody and Annie Fishback also helped keep the Panthers off the board in the second half. Cody and Espeseth helped out on Galvan, who often had to fight off two defenders.
Menlo, meanwhile, put itself in position to possibly take over first place (with a win over SHP on Thursday) by scoring three second-half goals to beat host Castilleja at Mayfield Soccer Complex.
Senior Kelly Cavan connected from 20 yards out off an assist from Alex Tom for what proved to be the winning goal. A few minutes later, Cavan scored again from 23 yards out following a pass from Amanda McFarland. Menlo freshman Sienna Stritter finished the scoring with a 15-yard strike off an assist from Sophia King.
Menlo coach Donoson FitzGerald singled out defender Shannon Lacy and his goalie tandem of sophomores Julia Dressel and Kelly McConnell for their fourth straight shutout.
In a WBAL Skyline Division match, Adrienne Whitlock scored off an assist from Danielle Man in the first half as Pinewood (2-2, 7-6) produced a 1-0 victory over visiting Eastside Prep.
In the PAL Bay Division, visting Menlo-Atherton got second-half goals from Gillian Collom and Victoria Fernandez in a 2-0 victory over Hillsdale. The Bears (3-3-1, 8-3-2) remained tied with Carlmont for fifth place, trailing co-leaders Woodside and San Mateo, both 5-1-1.