After closing out an undefeated regular season with a victory against Santa Clara High School, the Palo Alto High School boys soccer team looks forward to the Central Coast Section (CCS) championships. Despite winning the league, the boys are currently seeded fourth for CCS and are scheduled to play Watsonville High School.
With a 15-0-4 record, senior Ariya Momeny attributes the team’s success to a hard-driven work ethic.
“Most teams would say that they just want to win more than the other team, but that isn’t true in our case,” Momeny said. “What sets us apart from other teams is our refusal to lose.”
The team is known for having fun during practice, but its members are also able to work together to utilize each other’s strengths. As one of two sophomores, Matt Knowles recognizes team chemistry as an important aspect to their winning season.
“We’re playing a lot more as a team,” Knowles said. “At the beginning of the season, we were playing more individually, but now that we’ve practiced a lot, our team chemistry is much better.”
All players on the team agree that they have a lot of talent, but that it is not the only skill needed to be a good, cohesive team. According to Momeny, Paly needs to have the will and the friendship to be victorious.
“There’s no doubt that we’re a team with a lot of natural talent, but you don’t need talent to work hard and that’s what we’re going to do,” Momeny said. “We are going to outplay and out-hustle the opponent. All of us have played with each other during club season and that plays a huge role, we mess around a lot, but push each other when needed.”
While the boys played well throughout the season, a string of injuries forced the team to adapt and prove that nothing can stand in their way. Junior Derek Schoenberger thinks that the team pulled through due to their winning work ethic.
“We went through a slump where as a team we weren’t playing very well and had a lot of injured players,” Schoenberger said. “The other teams played us well and for some of those games we barely got the tie. We were down for most of the tied games and came back from either one or two goals down by simply refusing to lose.”
In preparation for the huge loss of 11 seniors next year, the team has recently added freshman Leyton Ho. Schoenberger thinks that Ho will be a valuable asset to the team.
“Leyton is an incredible player and even for a freshman his game awareness and decision making on the field is very advanced,” Schoenberger said. “He’s definitely a player I’d want playing with me during a big game.”
Schoenberger is surprised by the team’s fourth seed placement for CCS and expects a challenging game. However, he believes that as long as the team remains focused they will succeed.
“I’m a little disappointed with our seeding because we had the best record but we’re the fourth seed,” Schoenberger said. “We have a pretty hard matchup but I think if we play our game we have a decent chance of going all the way this year.”
Knowles is confident about playing against Watsonville, but is more apprehensive about the team that Paly would play in the following round: defending CCS champions Bellarmine High School.
“If we get past the first round, we’ll have to play the first-seeded Bellarmine, who knocked us out of CCS last year,”Knowles said. “We’ve kind of been keeping track of them this year because we were very upset losing to them last year, but our main focus right now is on Watsonville in the first round.”
The team agrees that the winning streak is due to talent and team chemistry, but Momeny believes that an old tradition with undefeated teams gives them the spirit to win.
“We have this saying, ‘Five Minutes,”’ Momeny said. “After every goal, and at the beginning of each half we all shout it as a team, and we just sprint for five minutes straight and get every single ball, because the kickoff is always a time that makes a difference.”