Boys’ soccer edges out Santa Clara in Senior Night match

Boys' Soccer vs. Santa Clara

All photos by Daniel Garepis-Holland.

In a game filled with scoring opportunities and intense defensive plays, the Palo Alto High School boys’ soccer team (6-2-3) defeated the Santa Clara Bruins (3-4-4), 1-0, in Friday’s Senior Night game at home.

According to Vikings senior striker Dinu Deshpande, Senior Night holds significant value for all players, particularly for seniors, since they get to play in front of the Paly community one last time.

“It [the game] was all I could think about the whole day and coming up to it,” Deshpande said. “There’s so many people out here for us, and it means a lot because this might be my last day playing for my crowd.”

According to Viking head coach Rusty Millard, it was particularly crucial for him to put the seniors in the game, as it may be their final opportunity to play during their high school career.

“Since it’s senior night, we are pulling up some guys that haven’t been [playing] a lot, giving them an opportunity and saying thank you,” Millard said. “It was an awesome opportunity for some of the guys who haven’t been playing much, who are seniors, to get out there tonight and shine in front of their families and friends.”

Millard said that coming into the game, the team knew Santa Clara would be a difficult team to beat, coming off of the Vikings’ previous 0-2 loss against them on Jan. 20.

“We know [Santa Clara] is a tough team and they don’t give up too many goals,” Millard said. “Since they play very defensively, we knew we kind of had to be patient. So, for practice last night there was a lot of work on ball movement, showing us some areas that we thought we could be effective.”

Paly started off with dominant possession and had a near miss from senior midfielder Rhys Foote in the early minutes of the game. In the seventh minute, Deshpande passed the ball into the goal box, where Foote slid the ball into the back of the net. Despite the Bruins’ subsequent shots, the Vikings’ defense held strong and blocked several attacks. The first half was characterized by intense midfield battles, resulting in five yellow cards being issued to the Bruins and two to the Vikings. Defense dominated for both teams towards the end of the first half, and the score at halftime was 1-0 in favor of Paly.

According to Millard, despite the Vikings’ overpowering performance in the first half, they still needed to be on guard for a Bruin comeback.

“We went in at halftime and while we were happy to be up one-zero,” Millard said. “We still felt like there were ways and areas that we could improve and be better. We knew [Santa Clara] would probably change their formation and their tactics in the second half.”

In the second half, the Bruins executed a different strategy, displaying renewed vigor to take control of possession. However, the Bruins still struggled to penetrate the Viking’s defense. As the match remained deadlocked in midfield, Paly Principal Brent Kline removed Paly spectators from the field after the referee deemed them to be too rowdy and too close to the sidelines. 

The Voice reached out to Kline, who did not comment on the situation.

During stoppage time, the Bruins had multiple shots on goal due to breakaways by their offense, but the game ultimately ended 1-0 in favor of Paly.

According to Viking junior defender Richie Ogawa, the substantial amount of time and effort invested in practice allowed the Vikings to remain composed during challenges.

“We trained so hard for the last three and a half months,” Ogawa said. “We were all heated in the moment, but we kept our heads cool. There were a lot of yellow cards and lots of fouls, but I’m proud that we stepped up and got the win.”

According to Bruin junior sweeper Nathan Kalapala, the main source of motivation for the Bruins was upperclassmen. 

“Honestly, the seniors were our biggest motivation because it’s one of their last games, so we were trying to make a memorable game for them,” Kalapala said. 

Millard said the team needs to stay strong and keep practicing in order to play well against Los Altos for the league title. 

“It’s a quick turnaround [to the next game],” Millard said. “So, a couple of days off to let these guys heal and recover and be happy.”

The Vikings are set to play 7 p.m. Wednesday against the Eagles (6-3-2) at Los Altos High School.