Nine local soccer teams began the Central Coast Section playoffs this week, a number believed to be a record. Four schools -- Gunn, Palo Alto, Menlo-Atherton and Sacred Heart Prep -- had both a boys and girls team entered.
Following the first round on Wednesday, that number has been reduced by only one following the Gunn girls' 3-0 loss to Santa Teresa in Division I action.
Three other teams -- Menlo-Atherton girls, Sacred Heart Prep boys and Palo Alto boys -- all won their openers and will join five other local squads that received byes into Saturday's quarterfinals.
Perhaps the toughest task of the weekend rests with the SHP boys, who will take on No. 1 seed Pajaro Valley (15-1-4) at Watsonville High at 2 p.m.
"Pajaro Valley is one of the top teams in the section, no matter which division you're talking about," said SHP coach Armando del Rio.
The No. 8-seeded Gators (13-2-5) tuned up for the showdown by thumping No. 9 Greenfield, 4-1, in a Division III opener in Atherton on Wednesday.
Matthew MacFarquhar scored two goals within one minute to pace SHP, which got its first goal from Philip Petrakian in the opening minute when Philip Petrakian beat a defender to the ball on a through ball from Derek Chou and left-footed a shot across the front of the cage and into the right corner.
"I though it gave us an immediate confidence boost," del Rio said. "Scoring so early on, the whole team felt a huge weight off their shoulders."
After Petrakian's shockingly quick goal, MacFarquhar then took charge and was wide open for a shot, which he converted, after the Greenfield defense gave up -- believing that MacFarquhar was offside. Connor Johnston provided the assist.
A minute later, MacFarquhar found himself open again, following a pass from Petrakian, and rifled a shot from outside for a 3-0 halftime lead.
Greenfield picked up a goal with just over eight minutes left, but SHP answered when Fernando Monteon took a pass from Oscar Delgado and chipped a shot over Greenfield's backup keeper during stoppage time for the final tally.
The Palo Alto boys also will have an interesting Division I quarterfinal matchup on Saturday after the No. 4-seeded Vikings (14-3-3) blanked visiting and No. 13 seed Santa Teresa, 4-0.
Paly will host No. 5 Bellarmine (13-4-4), a 3-1 winner over No. 12 Santa Clara, on Saturday at 10 a.m. The last time the Vikings and Bells met in CCS, it was in the Division I finals where the teams played four overtimes before settling for a 0-0 finish and sharing the title.
Palo Alto has its best team since '09, but hasn't advanced past the quarterfinals since then -- failing to qualify in two of the past three years.
The Vikings got off to a good start Wednesday by scoring just before halftime and three times in the final six minutes.
Paly senior Preston Kuppe set up the first two goals with corner kicks. Junior Cole Tierney finished the first and sophomore Michel-Ange Siaba the second, in the 74th minute. Siaba scored again two minutes later when he got behind the defense and chased down a ball from junior Dami Bolarinwa before finishing. Senior Wesley Woo wrapped up the scoring with a penalty kick in the 79th minute.
Also playing in Saturday's quarterfinals will be top-seeded Menlo-Atherton (15-3), which will take on No. 8 Alvarez (15-2-4) in Division I action at Palo Alto High at 2 p.m. Alvarez blanked Sequoia, 5-0.
Gunn (14-4-2), the SCVAL De Anza Division champ, will take its No. 3 seed in Division II and face No. 11 Mountain View (8-7-3) at Palo Alto High at 4 p.m. The Spartans advanced following a 2-2 tie with Branham that was decided on penalty kicks (5-4).
Menlo School opened defense of its Division III co-title (with Sacred Heart Prep) by routing No. 11 seed Summit Prep, 7-0, at Woodside High. The No. 8-seed Knights improved to 11-4-4 and will face No. 3 Harbor (10-5-3) in Saturday's quarterfinals at Westmont High at 2 p.m.
Menlo scored four goals in the first 12 minutes of action. Leah Swig connected from 12 yards out off an assist from Zoe Enright. Next, Alexandra Walker scored from 15 yards out off a pass from Swig. Enright tallied from 15 yards out and Swig finished an Emily Demmon cross from 12 yards out.
In the second half, the Menlo goals were scored by Demmon and the final two goals by Cleo King with assists by Walker, Alice Shaw, and Demmon.
Top-seeded Sacred Heart Prep (16-2-1) will open its title defense on Saturday by facing No. 8 Greenfield (11-5-3), a 2-1 winner over No. 9 Monte Vista Christian, at Pioneer High at noon.
In Division I, No. 7 Menlo-Atherton (11-5-4) advanced with a 4-0 win over No. 10 Alisal and will face No. 2 Palo Alto (15-2-1) in the quarterfinals on the Vikings' field at noon.
Sophomore Katie Guenin scored three goals and junior Miranda Simes once to pace the Bears.
In the fourth minute, the speed of senior Annie Harrier enabled her to race down the right wing and beat the defender to get a cross off to Guenin, who scored. It appeared that M-A had scored a second goal in the 31st minute when senior Taryn Harpell headed in a free kick from junior Kelsey Reed, but it was called back for offsides. M-A senior goalkeeper Jacqueline Foody was forced to make two saves in the first half, but kept her score sheet clean and the half finished with M-A up 1-0.
In the second half, Harpell got her head on a corner kick and the ball found its way to Guenin, who volleyed the ball in for her second goal in the 51st minute to put M-A up 2-0. Just a few minutes later, it appeared that M-A had scored again when junior Talia Missan passed a ball to Guenin, but again the goal was called back for offsides.
Guenin did find the net again in the 64th minute to record a hat trick after she received a ball from the middle and took it down the right side and pounded it in for her third goal of the night for 3-0 lead.
The fourth and final goal of the evening came when Reed fed freshman Grace Brieger, who then found Simes on the left wing. Simes took the ball and hammered it in to send the Bears to the quarterfinals.
Also in Division I, No. 11 Gunn saw its season end at 11-7-1 following its 3-0 loss to No. 6 Santa Teresa (14-6) in San Jose. The Titans earned an at-large berth into CCS after finishing third in the SCVAL El Camino Division.