By Keith Peters
Sacred Heart Prep senior Abby Dahlkemper has her bags packed and will be heading to Chula Vista in Southern California on Sunday for a week-long Under-20 national team training camp. She'll miss the Gators' regular-season finale next week against Menlo School.
While the Knights have caused the Gators problems in the past with ties and provided the only blemish on SHP's 8-0-1 record in the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) this season, Dahlkemper can depart without any regrets.
Dahlkemper and her teammates took care of one final bit of business on Thursday, a 1-0 victory over second-place Priory in Portola Valley. The triumph gave the Gators (12-4-3 overall) their third straight WBAL championship.
"I would have been more nervous if we hadn't won," Dahlkemper said. "But, it's comforting knowing that league is taken care of."
With one match remaining for the WBAL's top three teams, Sacred Heart Prep has everything wrapped up with 25 points. Priory (5-2-2, 10-3-4) and Menlo (4-0-5, 5-3-9) are tied for second with 17 points following the Knights' 1-1 deadlock with visiting Castilleja on Thursday.
Thus, SHP coach Jake Moffat can take it easy next week while Menlo and Priory concern themselves with who will be the WBAL's second automatic qualifier to the Central Coast Section playoffs. The third-place team, which Menlo has been the past two seasons, must play the WBAL Skyline Division champ for the league's third CCS berth.
"Now, I can relax," Moffat said Thursday after watching Geena Graumann's goal just before halftime hold up for the winner. "Spirit Week is next week and trying to coach during Spirit Week is disastrous."
After defeating Priory in the first meeting, Moffat said his team's goal was to wrap up the league title before Dahlkemper left. The Gators played without her last season and dropped a 4-0 decision to host Priory. It's still the only loss the Gators have suffered in WBAL play in three years.
Sacred Heart avenged that defeat on the same field, taking advantage of a tough defense and a fortunate break on the winning goal.
With time running out in the first half, SHP's Lauren Espeseth took a corner with barely 30 seconds remaining. The ball eluded Priory keeper Liz Oliphant, who leaped to tip it away, and rattled around in front of the cage before Graumann got a foot on it for the eventual winner.
After that, both teams had numerous chances but both defenses held firm.
"The defense today was spectacular," Moffat said. "It was a great defensive effort by our team."
Like in the first victory over Priory, SHP senior KK Lane marked Priory sophomore standout Mariana Galvan, who only a few weeks ago was off at a U-18 National Team training camp in Florida. Galvan is dangerous every time she touches the ball, so Lane made sure to limit the touches. She had help from Graumann, Stephanie Terpening, Kendall Cody and others to keep Galvan from scoring.
"The goal was not to get beat there," Moffat said of Galvan's penchant for scoring.
Freshman Annie Fishback also played solid on defense for SHP, as did Nicole Quilliam and Espeseth plus Dahlkemper, and Sophia Abuel-Saud, among others.
Priory's Galvan, Eugenia Jernick and Darrah Shields did their best to break through, especially in the second half when the Panthers during up the tempo. Jernick just missed scoring on a header with 5:25 left to play.
Priory, however, needed a victory to prevent SHP from wrapping up the title. A deadlock would not do. The Panthers, however, got neither and Sacred Heart Prep celebrated afterward.
We can relax next week," Moffat said. "Hopefully we can get a bye (for CCS)."
The Gators won the CCS Division III title two seasons ago and reached the semifinals last season before losing. The Gators' goal this season is to get back on top.
In Atherton, Menlo School moved into a tie for second place in the WBAL Foothill Division following a 1-1 deadlock with visiting Castilleja on Thursday. The Knights (4-0-5, 5-3-9) have 17 points, as does Priory, with one match remaining for both teams.
Menlo's Kelly Cavan scored midway through the first half on a 20-yard shot. Castilleja's Gabby Kaplan connected from close range late in the first half for the equalizer. Menlo had a few good second-half scoring opportunities but could not find the net. Menlo was led by goalkeeper Kelly McConnell and defenders Elyse Adler and Frannie McCarthy. Menlo beat Castilleja in its first meeting, 3-0.
Thursday's deadlock may prove costly for the Knights, who most likely will need a victory over Sacred Heart Prep to claim second place. Priory, meanwhile, needs only to beat King's Academy.
Should Priory and Menlo both win on Tuesday, a tiebreaker will have to be used to determine the league's automatic qualifier to CCS. Priory and Menlo tied each other in both head-to--head matches. If goals against league opponents are the deciding factor, Priory most likely will get the automatic berth.
Castilleja, meanwhile, is finishing strong despite being saddled with injuries and having a first-year goalie in senior Ginna Freehling. In the Gators' past four matches, they had a 0-0 match with King's Academy, a 1-0 loss to SHP in the 75th minute, a 4-3 loss to Priory and the tie with Menlo. In those same four matches during the first round, Castilleja was outscored 15-2.
In the WBAL Skyline Division, Danielle Man and Courtney Copriviza each scored goals to carry host Pinewood to a 2-0 victory over Eastside Prep. Etelle Stephan assisted on Copriviza's goal as Pinewood improved to 5-4 in league (10-8-1 overall).
In the PAL Bay Division, host Menlo-Atherton got goals from Meryssa Thompson, Gillian Collom and Victoria Fernandez in a 3-1 win over Terra Nova. The Bears (4-7-1, 9-7-2) also got assists from Zoe Pacalin and Nicola White.