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Menlo girls win WBAL title, Paly falls in SCVAL

 

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Menlo School sophomore Michaela Michael is the leading scorer and points leader in the nation. Thus, it wasn't surprising that Michael scored eight goals in the West Bay Athletic League playoff championship match on Saturday at Woodside High.

Nor was it too surprising that the Knights produced a 20-15 victory over rival Sacred Heart Prep. The Knights were just as dominant as Michael was this season, especially in the WBAL.

Elyse Adler added four goals for top-seeded Menlo (18-6) as the Knights won a fourth straight postseason title – three straight in the WBAL and the seventh in program history as Menlo topped SHP (17-8) for a third time this season. Freshman Caroline Cummings led SHP with six goals and two assists. Menlo's previous titles were in the Peninsula Athletic League.

"A very strong showing for both teams, with strong performances from all members of both teams to have a great final today," said Menlo coach Jen Lee.

This was the first matchup between the teams for a championship. This season, the two schools had 13 contests with eight common opponents in and out of league. Menlo finished 12-1 in these games while SHP was 9-4.

Menlo grabbed a quick 3-1 lead in the first 2:38 of play on two goals by Michael and one by Kacie Madeira before Cummings made it 3-2 off the next draw possession. Thus was the pace of the game. Still, Menlo never trailed. With 6:28 left in the half, the Knights held a 12-6 advantage and stretched it to 14-7 by intermission as Menlo goalie Hannah Rubin had a strong first half with eight saves.

Following the halftime break, Menlo continued its relentless pursuit of the ball and the quest for the back of the net. Sacred Heart was on the same mission for the final 25 minutes of play. At one point, however, the Knights held a 10-goal lead at 19-9.

While Sacred Heart Prep appeared done at that point, it was anything but as the Gators scored the next six goals in just under six minutes with Cummings tallying four of them while senior Kendall Cody had two to make it close.

Brooke Bullington added three goals and an assist for Menlo while Cody and fellow senior Julia Keller wrapped up their careers with four and three goals, respectively for SHP. Melissa Holland added two for the Gators. Cummings finished the season with 92 goals and 119 points.

Rubin finished with 12 saves for the Knights. Michael wrapped up an outstanding sophomore season with 120 goals and 152 points to lead the country, according to MaxPreps.

Menlo is 7-1 in postseason championship title events with only a one-goal loss to Menlo-Atherton in 2007 in an epic game. Eight seniors have played in the Menlo program for all four years. They have been a part of a 46-0 league record and Saturday they made history in sharing Menlo's 100th league victory. They also shared the honor with their teammates of Menlo's highest-ever national ranking of No. 222 in the country.

This year's eight Menlo seniors are Devin Garnick (Gettysburg), Sarah Graham-Helwig (George Washington University), Madeleina Halley (Tulane), Taylor Jones (Washington), Monica Rosenkranz (Occidental), Rachel Star (Northwestern), Kyra Vargas (Stanford), and Margot Yecies (Dartmouth).

Sacred Heart had five seniors who played their final prep game: Kendall Cody (Stanford), Michelle Gonia (Colorado), Julia Keller (Cal Poly), Maddie Del Santo (Santa Clara) and Danielle Lussier (Stanford). Keller, Gonia and Cody were all significant factors in the overall great success of SHP this spring.

In the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League finals on Saturday, also at Woodside:

The Palo Alto girls may never know if it deserved to win a second straight league playoff championship. The Vikings suffered two crucial yellow-card penalties and saw a 4-1 lead disappear as St. Francis overcame the deficit to post a 13-8 victory on Saturday at Woodside High.

With 16 minutes gone in the first half, Paly held its three-goal lead before suffering its first penalty and thus played a player down. Before the Vikings could get that player back on the field, they suffered a second penalty with 13 minutes left. The Lancers went on to score five goals before Palo Alto could get a full team back on the field.

The game seemed even again, but St. Francis was able to score one more time before Paly was called on its third yellow. The Lancers scored again and eventually took an 8-4 lead into the half. The Vikings never were able to close the gap and finished their strong season 16-8 after tying St. Francis for the regular-season title at 11-1 as both teams handed each other a loss in league.

"The yellow cards played a big role in that game because of the new role that a team must play down for the remainder of the game after the third card," said Paly coach Jamie Nesbitt. "It is very hard to win a game when you are playing a team with more people on the field. I'm definitely not saying that all the cards were undeserved, but it is disappointing to see.

"I do feel that at this level you either get games with no cards or games with 3 to 5, so it's really difficult to coach around. We have also come across many 'slashing' calls this year, which I needs to be clarified in the leagues. Slashing means there was deliberate viciousness or recklessness, which has definitely not been the case for many of our cards this year, and I've seen it called against our opponents for poor reasons, as well."

Layla Memar and Nina Kelty led Paly with two goals each while Leigh Dairaghi, Gracie Cain, Kimmie Flather and Vivienne La also scored.

"I think things just didn't roll our way," Nesbitt said. "I don't want to take anything away from St. Francis, they definitely played very well, but I didn't see the skill and the draw wins that I had gotten so accustomed to seeing from my team. We also couldn't finish shots, partially due to good goal-tending, but we didn't execute what was worked on to increase our shooting percentage. It never feels good to play that way to end your season, but I'm so proud of my girls and all they accomplished this year as a young team."

-- Palo Alto Online Sports with contributions from Jen Lee on Menlo School

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