Despite a rough start to its season, the Palo Alto High School boys’ soccer team (7-5-1, 7-1-0) narrowly clinched a spot in the Central Coast Sectionals and will be playing its first game at 5 p.m. tomorrow at Menlo-Atherton High School.
The Vikings will be facing off against Menlo-Atherton High School (7-6-1, 1-1-3), vying for a spot in Saturday’s quarterfinals.
While initially unable to secure a spot at CCS due to their placement in the standings, the Vikings were able to qualify because of an at-large bid according to junior goalkeeper Kiran Misner.
“Each game you get points depending on how good the team you were playing is and how you did,” Misner said. “The teams with the most points after the ‘automatic qualifiers’ get in on an at-large.”
At-large bids exist to let in teams that may have not performed to their fullest potential during the regular season. Paly had an impressive performance during the preseason, but had a less than stellar performance during the regular season. Their pre-season record may be taken into account, thus giving the chance for the Vikings to play at CCS.
Paly started off the season with a string of devastating losses and ties, with many of their key players unable to play due to injuries. Despite the slow start, the Vikings were able to pick up the momentum and finished the season with a strong winning streak.
Senior captain Derek Schoenberger credits this change to the strength and perseverance of the team.
“We have a strong team this year and have gone through a fair amount of tough losses that have made us stronger as the season progressed,” Schoenberger said. “Our expectations for one another have increased. I think everyone now holds each other to a higher standard and we push each other more both on and off the field.”
“I think what has changed from the beginning of the season is that we are a lot closer as a team and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” junior defender Matt Knowles said.
Team members are optimistic about their chances in advancing in CCS, believing their momentum from their winning streak will carry over into tomorrow’s game.
“We know that every game is going to be a battle, but I know we have the ability to beat any team in the tournament if everyone holds their own and fights for the whole 80 minutes,” Schoenberger said. “I think our greatest strength is our ability to move the ball as a team. Despite the fact that, as a team, we have a lot of speed, our ability to connect passes and work defenders as a unit is generally our strongest aspect.”’
The Vikings will face off against Menlo-Atherton in the first round of playoffs at 5 p.m., tomorrow at Menlo-Atherton High School.