Palo Alto High School's sports news magazine

Viking Magazine

Palo Alto High School's sports news magazine

Viking Magazine

Palo Alto High School's sports news magazine

Viking Magazine

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The Palo Alto High School boys’ soccer team struggled to maintain an early lead in a grueling contest with Gunn High School, leaving the Titans’ field with a final result of 1-1.

Though still carrying an undefeated league record (3-0-6), the Vikings are unable to maintain a consistent lineup while its bench remains riddled with injuries, illness and players who refuse to show up for practice. However, among the bench-men at the start of the match, midfielder Zac Hummel (’11) shook off a weary ankle injury to help ignite the Viking offensive.

“The ankle’s feeling good,” Hummel said. “[I] got it tweaked by my physician this past weekend so I could spark [the team’s energy] for us.”

Paly scores on a penalty kick by John Richardson ('11) as Gunn's goalie dives the wrong way mid-way through the first half. Paly tied Gunn, 1-1.

Coming into the match to settle the ambiguous tie from earlier in the season, center midfielder John Richardson (’11) felt confident that Paly would dictate the speed of play, keeping in mind Gunn’s style and players.

“What is there to fear?” Richardson chuckled before warm-ups. “These dogs don’t have what it takes [to beat us].”

Hummel’s work on the flanks, coupled with a consistent effort from Richardson, helped the Vikings develop a dominating presence throughout the game. Not more than five minutes after joining the attack, Hummel was taken out from under his feet by a Gunn defender just inside the 18-yard box, whistling in a penalty kick with ten minutes remaining in the half. Stepping up to take the kick, Richardson calculated his strike low to the ground and to the opposite side of Gunn’s diving keeper, notching up the score, 1-0. With the momentum at the feet of the Vikings, the game began.

“We knocked it around and started to dominate the flow,” defender Mark Raftrey (’11) said. “We picked [the speed of play] up in the midfield.”

Connecting passes around and through the Titan lineup, the Vikings found opportunities on both sides of the field and through the middle. Richardson led the charge with strong support from holding midfielder Austin Smith (’11) and deftly maneuvered through-balls into the feet of his wingmen. Volleying headers back and forth, both teams rallied support from their fan-peppered bleachers and heard outbursts of spirited support from the Gunn camp.

Before the end of the half, Richardson slowed down the play, working the ball back to Smith to redistribute down the wings. Bobbling the ball just above the 18-yard box, Smith lost control of his touch and served the ball to oncoming Titans. In a three on three skirmish, Gunn failed to capitalize and Viking keeper Austin Shiau (’11) reset the game with a goal kick, signaling the end of the half.

Both teams took to their benches for some inspiration from the coaching staff. Satisfied with its current lead, Paly took note of Coach Don Briggs’ direction to maintain the game defensively. Nevertheless, the Vikings came out with flare against a riled up Titan lineup.

From the outset of the second half, both teams crafted and pursued an exchange of attempts. Gunn captain Andrew Wohl (’11) helped drive the Titans toward the Paly net, launching throw-ins to the chests and heads of his teammates for one-touch flicks and tricks. In a series of efforts, the Titans made their way into the Vikings’ box but were stonewalled by heavy boots from the Viking defensive line. Looking for green shirts in the box, Hummel sailed balls in front of the net, but to little avail as Gunn’s keeper picked-off the lot of them.

Momentum began to shift in the midfield as Gunn players drove into the heart of the Paly squad and connected balls around the box. With a few opportunities, Gunn managed to fire-off shots on net but into the hands of Shiau.

Countering, Paly picked up the pace and swept the ball between its defense, into the midfield, out to the flanks and back to Richardson, who proficiently anticipated oncoming defenders and played one-touch to a flying Nittai Malchin (’11). Malchin took the ball to the end-line and served a well placed ball into the six-yard box, just missing the diving feet of forward Skylar Felt (’13).

Midfielder Josh Totte ('14) drives past a Gunn defender during tonight's cross-town match

Following Malchin’s attempt, Hummel, sandwiched between relentless Gunn defenders, powered through a shoulder-to-shoulder match-up, finding himself accelerating toward the keeper in a one-on-one situation. Finding the open right hand corner, he struck a spinning ball off the outside of his boot. In the knick of time, a Gunn defender slid through the ball’s trajectory and intercepted the pass, crushing a close opportunity for the Vikings. With just a few minutes remaining on the clock, Hummel drove toward the net again, confidently taking a shot outside the six-yard box, soaring the ball just over the corner post.

Feeling the pressure of the clock and the oncoming Gunn offensive, Paly dropped back, slipping onto its heels, and sweating to maintain the 1-0 lead. Moving deep into the Paly half, Gunn built up a network of passes, bringing its keeper off his line and into the mix, just above the half-line. Control exchanged feet and in a moment of brilliance, the ball was fed to Gunn striker Victor Lazarov (’11) who gunned it to the back of the net just out of the reach of Shiau.

With the score tied and clock run down, the ref whistled the end of the match bringing the Vikings to their knees.

“We had opportunities, we made opportunities and we missed opportunities,” Briggs said. “Everything went fine until the end.”

Many the players on the team, however, believe the game should have become more predictable toward the final minutes.

“We just dropped off defensively too much and lost our drive,” Smith said. “We can’t do too much on our heels. We didn’t even clear the ball out the way we were supposed to.”

Though the team is sorrowfully marinating in an unwarranted tie against cross-town rival Gunn, it sees light in the fact that it can still boast an undefeated season.

“Yeah, well, we’re still undefeated,” Hummel said.

The team looks forward to moving on with the season on Wednesday, Feb. 9 in a home game against Los Gatos High School at 3:30 p.m.

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About the Contributor
Sam Greene
Sam Greene, Copy Editor
Sam Greene studies at the Univesity of California, Berkeley. He joined the journalism program at Palo Alto High School in 2008  and has been writing for himself and professional publications ever since.   While working with the Viking Magazine he enjoyed polishing and buffing up its array of award-winning pieces. With his free time he follows artists, practices medicine, blends smoothies and climbs mountains. In his soccer career he played for Palo Alto Blue 93B State Champion team and Nationally renowned soccer club. With his free time he familiarizes himself with stringed instruments and trains for triathlons.  A dedicated Sharks fan, Sam bleeds and teal and sees his team clinching the playoff in his lifetime.

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