The Palo Alto High School girls’ lacrosse team (10-4, 9-1) earned redemption after beating the Gunn High School Titans (12-2, 9-1) in a hard-fought match, 10-9, Wednesday at Paly.
The Vikings are now sitting in third place in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League, while Gunn still holds on to first place.
Despite the Titans scoring the first two goals of the game, Paly was able to strike back quickly with a goal from sophomore midfielder Maya Benatar, which gave momentum to the Viking offense. Both halfs of the game were toughly contested, with the difference in goals never passing two. While Gunn threatened Paly with fast breaks, the Viking defense stayed patient and blocked several opportunities for a Titan advantage.
The cross-town match brought a level of physical aggression that caused both teams to give up key goals due to fouls. Paly senior midfielder Kristen DeStefano scored the last goal of the first half after a Gunn player illegally checked her, resulting in her being sent off of the field with a yellow card.
While defense was a highly emphasised component of this match, both teams excelled offensively, with Titan captain Victoria Nguyen scoring one-third (three) of their goals. Viking junior midfielder Paige Bara responded by scoring an impressive four goals, one of which gave Paly their tenth and winning goal.
While Paly finished the first half with a lead of 7-5, Gunn came back in the 2nd, tying it up 8-8 with 15 minutes to go. During these first 10 minutes, the Titans displayed their athleticism as they pivoted and sprinted with great endurance across the field, waiting for an opening in the Paly defense. Viking sophomore goalie Meredith Kinnaman successfully blocked earlier attempts by the Titan offense, but Gunn’s patience was eventually rewarded, bringing the score to 8-8.
Paly, determined to put an end to Gunn’s comeback, attentively watched as the Titan’s offense advanced. Gunn midfielders walked back and forth across the field, seemingly taunting the Vikings to make the first move. Paly intercepted the ball and brought it down the field where junior attacker Lauren Gargiulo scored, putting the Vikings back on top.
It was apparent that as time on the clock decreased, the intensity increased, as players of both teams desperately fought for possession of the ball. Gunn gained control and in fast break made their way towards the goal, only to be met with fierce opposition by the Viking defense. Almost mechanically, the Gunn offense reset, returning to their style of patience. Gunn midfielder Annie Vesey saw her chance and struck, pivoting and spinning she executed a powerful shot and scored.
“I was in the moment, it was all instinct,” Vesey said. “All I was thinking was maybe we can win this.”
The Viking defense held-off the last attempts of a determined Titan line-up, earning redemption for their loss to Gunn in March.
“We were not prepared for Gunn’s skills in the first game. This time we knew how they played,” Bara said. “I think we just came into the game with the right mindset and did a much better job communicating on defense.”
Even though the Vikings walked away with a victory, Coach Jamie Nesbitt is already looking for ways they can improve.
“There are a lot of areas for improvement,” Nesbitt said. “I think for us, in close games, it comes down to little things like the defensive presence at the end and the urgency to get the ball to the attacking end.”
The Vikings’ next game is against Saint Francis High School (10-3, 9-1) at 7 p.m. Friday night at Palo Alto High School.