As the night crept in and the sun began to set, it seemed almost as if the players took strength from the creeping darkness as they held on with gritted teeth, waiting for the final whistle. Crunching tackle followed crunching tackle as Palo Alto High School battled to hold on to a tenuous one-goal lead and beat Los Altos High School on Thurs. 8, January in the first varsity league soccer game of the season.
It was an even-sided affair early on with most of the possession coming in the middle of the park. Paly’s main outlet came in the pace of junior striker Dami Bolarinwa. Bolarinwa got onto a number of through balls, but was called offsides multiple times.
As the first half progressed, Paly began to wrest control of the game, with Bolarinwa and junior winger Cole Tierney coming close. The breakthrough came late in the first half with the introduction of junior striker Ariya Momeny. His strength was too much for the Los Altos defenders. Just a few minutes after Momeny’s introduction, he held off one defender before coolly slotting home into the right side netting.
Following Momeny’s goal, Paly began to pile more pressure on Los Altos, especially when the Los Altos defenders recieved the ball. The constant harassment by the speedy strikers left the defenders uneasy and eager to get rid of the ball.
Paly continued to do the same in the second half, comfortably controlling the game. Los Altos rarely threatened the Paly goal, but when they did, they came up against junior goalkeepers Alessandro Bonomi in the first half and Eli Friedlander in the second half who dominated their areas impressively.
As the game progressed and Los Altos began to fatigue, Paly and senior midfielder Wesley Woo began to find more gaps in the Los Altos defence. The onlooking crowd cheered Paly on in search of the killing blow in the form of a second goal. That second goal would prove unnecessary as the team saw out a robust performance to start off its league campaign.
With a 4-1-2 record in the preseason, including a 3-0 victory over rivals Gunn High School, prospects are looking good for Paly this year, not to mention the fact that most of the team will remain next year, giving them time to grow in confidence and develop a greater understanding.
“Our defense is getting very mature. I don’t know how many shutouts we’ve had, but we haven’t given up very many goals,” varsity coach Donald Briggs said. “I told [the team] that as long as we don’t give up any goals, we’re going to be competitive in every game.”
By playing balls in behind the Los Altos defence, Paly truly exploited the pace of strikers Bolarinwa and senior forward Edward Chen, who ran the cumbersome Los Altos defense ragged.
The victory over Los Altos was followed by an albeit less impressive 1-0 victory over Monta Vista High School, where the team still dominated, but fans have no need to worry: good teams win on good days, bad ones win on their worst days.