Though it is a common conception that Palo Alto High School’s primary athletic rival is either Gunn or Los Gatos, if you ask a member of the girls’ soccer team, the response will overwhelmingly be “Mountain View.”
It was the Spartans who stopped the Vikings from winning the Central Coast Section final in 2015. It was Mountain View that ended the Vikings’ chance at a perfect season in 2016. Other teams may see Mountain View as a tough opponent, but nothing more than that: they have no vendetta with the Spartans the way the girls’ soccer team does.
It’s fitting, then, that Paly would face off against Mountain View in almost the exact same position that they were in a year ago, with the Vikes’ undefeated record on the line. But this time, instead of faltering for the third time, the Vikings prevailed, emerging with a 2-0 victory, propelling them into first place in the De Anza League, with an almost spotless record of 5-0-3, edging out Mountain View’s record of 5-1-1.
The highlight of the game occurred late in the first half, with the ball being fiercely contested by both teams, neither side maintaining possession for longer than a minute. Senior defender Lauola Amanoni spotted an opening, sprinting up from the back line, she received a pass from freshman midfielder Chloe Japic. Dribbling the ball up the middle, Amanoni beat out two consecutive Spartan defenders and fired a shot from way beyond the 18-yard line into the goal.
Amanoni’s goal woke the Vikings up; their play became more precise, and not five minutes later they had scored again, this time a goal by Japic.
While the Vikes may have shut the Spartans out, play was not perfect on the defensive side. Communication errors plagued Paly early in the game, leading to some goal opportunities for Mountain View.
Senior midfielder Tess Preising attributes the on-field confusion to a new formation the Vikings were trying out.
“What we didn’t do too well was defending and marking because we played with a new formation,” Preising said. “We were doing a 5-4-1 so some of us were confused in the midfield.”
The new formation certainly caused some disarray on the field, but as the game progressed, errors appeared less and less. Chatter on the field increased, players letting each other know if they had time, or if they had to get rid of the ball immediately.
Mountain View’s errors came from their inability to capitalize on mistakes that Paly made. Too often the Vikes would fail to get the ball out of their back line, or if they did, it would immediately return to a Spartan player. Amanoni recognizes the team’s difficulties with clearing the ball as a problem to work on. “We kept clearing it [the ball], where they were able to advance off of it.”
According to head coach Kurt Devlin, Paly faced off against Mountain View down several players.
“We need to work on getting healthy,” Devlin said. “We have a bunch of girls that are nicked up or sick, so we need to rest and get healthy for the rest of the way out.”
The team’s next match will be against the Homestead High School Mustangs, who currently sit in the middle of the De Anza league standings with a record of 4-4-0. The game at Homestead on Thursday will give the Vikings the chance to try out their new formation again before facing third place Santa Clara High School (3-0-3) in a week.