The Menlo-Atherton boys' soccer team took a step closer to earning a co-championship in the PAL Bay Division with a 4-0 victory over host Carlmont on Monday. With only a road match against Westmoor on Wednesday, the Bears are 10-2-1 in league and 12-3-2 overall and still tied with Burlingame for first place.
Francisco Sanchez gave M-A a 1-0 halftime lead with an unassisted goal. The Bears broke it open in the second half as Philip Witham scored off an assist from Enrique Ortiz, Edgardo Molina made it 3-0 (assisted by Julio Torres Lopez) and Witham capped the scoring with an assist from Aaron Oro.
The Bears dropped to second place last Wednesday following a 2-1 loss to Burlingame, but the Panthers were upset by Woodside on Friday -- enabling Menlo-Atherton to move back into a tie for first.
While Menlo-Atherton has a berth in next week's Central Coast Section playoffs locked up, the Palo Alto boys are still on the bubble heading into their final regular-season match in the SCVAL De Anza Division against visiting Mountain View on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m..
The Vikings (4-0-7, 8-2-8) are in third place in the division with 19 points, trailing second-place Saratoga by a single point. The Falcons (6-4-2) have concluded their regular season.
Paly needs no worse than a tie with Mountain View to move into what could be a three-way tie for second, should Los Altos (5-4-2, 17 points) beat last-place Santa Clara, as expected.
Should the Vikings finish tied with Saratoga and Los Altos, all with 20 points, Paly holds the tiebreaker with both.
"We have a tie and a win against each team," said Paly coach Don Briggs. "We also have the least goals given up (right next to Mt. View). Bottom line? We need to win.
"As far as a tie, I would rather just win outright and go undefeated. I think Mt. View is too explosive offensively to play for a one-goal game even. It will take at least two goals to beat them. Either way, I have never pushed for a tie before and I don't think it's an easy way to be successful. Our last game with Mt. View was a 2-2 tie but it was 0-0 at halftime and (Paly goalie Kris Hoglund) broke his leg right before the half. We put (Tony) Panayides in the goal as we did not have a keeper available. We were never ahead, but we hung in there under pretty tough conditions."
Should Palo Alto upset Mountain View, the Vikings will finish with 22 points and finish alone in second, earning one of three automatic CCS berths.
"Outright second place is a lot better than any of the other scenarios," Briggs said. "One scenario represents a pretty successful season whereas a tie sounds pretty mediocre -- sort of backing into the CCS -- and I do not consider this a mediocre team."
Briggs believes winless Santa Clara does not have a chance against Los Altos on Wednesday, which forces Paly to be at its best on Wednesday.
"Mt. View will be tough, having both the leading scorer and leading assist players," Brigs said. "They also have a very good keeper -- one of the two best in the league. It should be a good game -- neither team has lost a league game. I just hope the weather stays OK during the game and, with a few breaks, we can get a win."
In the West Bay Athletic League, Sacred Heart Prep (11-0-1, 16-0-1) has the title locked up with two matches remaining. Priory (9-3, 10-5-4) moved back into second place, thanks to Menlo's 1-0 win over erstwhile second-place King's Academy last Friday.
In the WBAL (Foothill Division) girls' race, Sacred Heart Prep (8-0-1, 12-4-3) also has the title wrapped up heading into its regular-season finale against visiting Menlo (4-0-5, 5-3-9) on Tuesday afternoon. The match is huge for the Knights, who are tied with Priory (5-2-2, 10-3-4) for second place, both with 17 points.
Only the top two teams get automatic CCS berths, while the third-place squad must play Skyline Division champ Notre Dame-San Jose in a playoff to decide the third CCS qualifier from the WBAL. Menlo has finished third the past two seasons.
Sacred Heart Prep will be playing without senior standout Abby Dahlkemper, who is in Chula Vista this week for a U-20 national team training camp.
In the PAL Bay Division girls' race, Menlo-Atherton (5-6-1, 10-6-2) will have to hope for an at-large berth with two matches remaining in the regular season. In the SCVAL De Anza Division girls' race, both Palo Alto (2-7-2, 5-11-2) and Gunn (3-5-3, 8-6-5) also have to hope they have enough points for at-large status, as well.
Pinewood (6-4, 10-8-1) is in a similar situation after finishing up in the WBAL Skyline Division last week.
The Menlo-Atherton boys and girls will host third-round games in the Peninsula Athletic League playoffs on Thursday.
The M-A girls, seeded No. 4 from the Bay Division, likely will host No. 5 Burlingame at 6 p.m. Burlingame will open Wednesday against the winner of Jefferson and Oceana. M-A and Burlingame split their PAL games this season.
Should the Bears (8-16) get by Burlingame, they'll have to face top-seeded Terra Nova in the semifinals on Friday at Burlingame High at 6 p.m. The finals will be Saturday, also at Burlingame, at 6 p.m.
In the boys' tournament, Menlo-Atherton (12-12) is the No. 3 seed from the Bay Division and likely will host No. 6 South San Francisco on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The Bears swept SSF in their two meetings during the regular season.
Should M-A win its opener, it will face No. 2 El Camino in a semifinal on Friday at Burlingame High at 4:30 p.m. The championship game is Saturday, as Burlingame, at 7:45 p.m.