Boys’ soccer edges out Gunn in close game


Daniel Garepis-Holland

Viking senior striker Nadav Sternheim fights for the ball at midfield during the varsity soccer match on Wednesday against the Gunn High School Titans. Despite the Titans dominating in possession throughout the game, the Vikings capitalized on a few key mistakes by the Titans and scored in crucial moments. According to Titan head coach Vava Marques, the players from both teams were excited about this match due to the prominent cross-town rivalry. “We were looking forward to this game,” Marques said. “They [Paly] even have their own trophy for this matchup. I think the overall atmosphere was awesome.” (Photo: Daniel Garepis-Holland)

In a game filled with back-and-forth possession and many scoring opportunities, the Palo Alto High School boys’ soccer team (3-2-2) defeated the Gunn Titans (1-3-2), 3-2, Wednesday at home.

According to Paly head coach Rusty Millard, the Vikings came into this game with a steady start, despite their loss last week against Santa Clara.

“Our mentality coming in was that we tripped up against Santa Clara last Friday and we wanted to make sure that we avenged that result,” Millard said. “We also knew tonight was a rivalry game — the kids all know each other. Ultimately the motivation from losing the last match propelled us.” 

The cross-town rivalry between Paly and Gunn has been a presence in the Palo Alto community over the past decades, so much so that a “Palo Alto Cup” was to be awarded to the winner of this match.

Viking senior attacking midfielder Alec Profit said games against Gunn tend to present challenges. 

“Every time we play Gunn, it’s always a blast,” Profit said. “The games are always tough, so we knew it would be a battle. But we also knew that if we fought through and kept our heads up, we could come up on the right end.”

Gunn started off strong, having an early shot blocked by Viking senior goalkeeper Isaac Kirby. After a long fight for possession at midfield and a few missed shots by both teams, Paly mounted an offensive attack at the 20th minute following their third free kick and saw their first shot on target, although it was deflected by Gunn’s goalkeeper. 

The Titans showed dominance in the second half of the first half, having over seven shot opportunities in the last 20 minutes of the half, while Paly took only three shots. The Titans also had more possession than the Vikings. However, in the last five minutes of the first half, a panic clearance by Gunn initiated a free throw near Gunn’s corner. The free throw was launched into the goal box and volleyed into the goal by Profit, ending the half, 1-0, in Paly’s favor.

Viking senior attacking midfielder Alec Profit looks for an open pass in the Titan goal box. (Photo: Daniel Garepis-Holland)

According to Profit, despite the struggles against the Titan defense, the Vikings were able to reverse the run of play after a series of mistakes by the Titans. 

 “Fighting through adversity during the game meant a lot to the team,” Profit said. “Things don’t always go our way, but we were able to battle back so it felt good to be on top after that first half.”

Millard said, although they were up 1-0, the Vikings were disappointed with their performance up until that point and realized they needed to step up their game.

“At the end of the first half, my message to the group was that we weren’t really happy with the overall first 40 minutes,” Millard said. “Credit to the team for getting the goal there three minutes before halftime, but we still knew that [our playing] needed to be better.”

The Vikings started the second half with lots of momentum, with Viking senior striker Dinu Deshpande scoring off of a long through pass by Viking senior center back Jonas Pao only five minutes after halftime, increasing the Vikings’ lead to 2-0. Shortly after, Gunn was awarded a penalty kick, and Titan senior center-midfielder Kai Parker struck the ball past the goalkeeper, making the score 2-1. 

A few minutes later, the Vikings responded with a series of passes in which Viking senior midfielder Hunter Aronson scored after narrowly beating the Gunn goalkeeper to the ball, setting the score to 3-1. The Titans immediately retaliated, and Parker scored another penalty kick resulting from a misjudged slide tackle by the Vikings, leading to a score of 3-2 in favor of Paly. 

In the last 20 minutes of the match, the Vikings put together only one more offensive attempt, with a shot from outside the box by Viking senior striker Josh Ramos ricocheting off the goalpost. The Titans tried desperately to tie the game, and the pace of play quickened. Gunn was consistently in Paly’s half and had multiple strong shots saved by Kirby. The game ended after around 10 minutes of stoppage time.

According to Gunn head coach Vava Marques, he was proud of his team’s level of play, but a few unlucky moments ultimately led to their loss.

“When we play as a team, it’s really hard to beat us,” Marques said. “I witnessed some mistakes that you would expect young players to make…- but I think we played a really good game today.” 

Millard said that even though the Vikings won, each member of the team has a desire to improve at their position. 

“The team has rallied around each other into a strong brotherhood,” Millard said. “I think we all have high levels of desire which make us even better you know, in terms of improvement.”

The Vikings lost to the Mountain View Spartans (3-1-3), 0-4, on Friday and are scheduled to play a rematch at 7 p.m. Monday against the Titans at Gunn High School.