Thanks to his big-time showing against NCAA Division III football powerhouse Linfield College, Menlo College's Chris Tosello was recognized as a Beyond Sports Network NAIA Defensive Player of the Week.
The senior from La Canada picked up a game high three sacks and four total tackles in the Oaks' 23-6 loss to the Wildcats on Saturday in Atherton. Tosello becomes the first Oak to win the honor this season and is only one of six defensive players in the nation to take home the award.
Tosello and his senior teammates will play their final this Saturday against NAIA powerhouse Azusa Pacific. Kickoff is noon. The Oaks will take a 5-3 record into the game after dropping three of their past four outings. There will be a special pre-game ceremony honoring the Menlo seniors.
The Oaks battled for a while against Linfield last weekend, but the visitors were riding a six-game winning streak and were ranked No. 5 in NCAA Division III. Moreover, Linfield never had lost to Menlo, emerging from the game with a 13-0 all-time lead in the series.
Linfield showed its dominance from the get go with an eight-play, 60-yard opening drive after the Oaks went three and out on their first possession. A 31-yard touchdown pass put Menlo in a 7-0 hole quickly.
Two Menlo possessions later, the Wildcats and their big-play ability were at it again. On fourth-and-long, Oaks' punter Kevin Kurtz had his attempt blocked by Linfield's Tyler Robitaille, which was then picked up and returned 26 yards for another score. Menlo's Shawn Winters blocked the point-after attempt to keep the game at 13-0.
Trailing by two scores, the Oaks needed a big play of their own or risk the possibility of things getting out of hand. Sophomore running back Thomas Reynolds was up to the challenge as he burst through a small gap in the Linfield defense, taking it 40-yards to the end zone to cut the deficit to 13-6 early in the second quarter. The Wildcats promptly returned the favor by blocking Menlo's extra-point attempt, keeping the score at 13-6.
A 37-yard field goal by Linfield late in the first half increased its lead to 16-6.
Neither team could really get anything going in the third quarter with the Oaks' defense stepping up to keep the deficit at 10 points. Leading the defensive charge was Menlo's duo of Marcus Alvin and Tosello.Alvin, then junior from San Diego, led the team with six tackles while Tosello, the junior from La Canada, had a game-high three sacks. Junior defensive back Anthony Bendana picked up his team-leading third interception in the losing effort as Linfield added another TD late in the fourth quarter.
Offensively, Menlo seemed unable to string together any scoring drives, as the team totaled just 161-yards of offense all game long -- 40 of those on the Reynolds' rush.
Oaks' junior quarterback Matt Pelesasa connected on 12 of 28 pass attempts for just 73-yards while Linfield's Mickey Inns threw for a total of 255-yards on 21-of-38 passing. Not to be lost in all the action was another 100-yard plus day for Menlo's Robert Adan, who concluded the day with a team-high 109-yards receiving.
For the second time this season, Menlo was unable to derail the Banana Slugs of UC Santa Cruz, losing in three sets to fall to 10-11 on the year. The nonconference tilt was more or less a grudge match after Menlo dropped its home matchup in four sets on Sept. 16.
"We played well at times but weren't consistent enough," claimed Oaks' head coach Daniel Rasay.
The Banana Slugs hit the hardwood running, on their way to a 25-16 first-set win.
The Lady Oaks and the play of last week's California Pacific Conference Player of the Week Amanda Sutter made it close in the second set (25-20).
Up 2-0 and with all the momentum, UC Santa Cruz was able to easily close out the match with a convincing 25-12 third-set win. The loss snapped a three-game Menlo win streak dating to Oct. 15.
Sutter led Menlo with eight kills and added 25 digs.
The Lady Oaks have two more matches in their 2011 season, closing out their road campaign against UC Merced on Friday.