Play of the Game: Oaks goal keeper Alex Palomarez makes a spectacular second half save to preserve the Menlo 1-0 lead.
An intensity came over the Wunderlich Field pitch that was indescribable. The magnitude of the contest was felt by players, coaches, and fans alike with the passion of both teams bursting at the seams. The first 2011 edition of the Menlo-Holy Names rivalry will go down as one for the books. What began as a battle ended as a war, but it was the Oaks that survived the clash by the slimmest of margins, winning by a final of 1-0.
Menlo fed off the raucous Wunderlich Field crowd, jumping on the board first in the 24th minute. Junior Alex Vukic scored his fourth goal in as many games on a ball by sophomore Dylan Crist who earned his second assist of the year.
Then in the 44th minute the momentum flipped completely to Holy Names after Crist was charged with a red card, forcing the Oaks to play the entire second half down a man. Now with the man advantage, the Hawks saw an opportunity to get back into the contest as the second half got underway.
Holy Names applied the pressure with attack after attack after attack but Menlo wouldn't budge. Oaks goal keeper Alex Palomarez and the rest of the Menlo defense was up to the task, refusing to allow the equalizer. "The red card definitely put a lot more pressure on us," commented Palomarez who put together his best performance of the season with 11 saves. "The mentality of the team was to keep our heads up, we couldn't let that get us down."
Still, attack after attack after attack from the Hawks, but Menlo held their ground in picking up the 1-0 victory to move into first place in the California Pacific Conference. Remarkably, that was only Holy Names third conference loss in the last seven years, going 59-2-1 during that stretch before today's defeat.
"The feeling is indescribable," claimed Palomarez who sees his team move to a perfect 5-0 in the Cal Pac. "It's kind of like an underdog story. I'm sure they [Holy Names] had it in their mind that they were going to come in here with some competition, but they had all the confidence in the world and for us to come up the way we did is just a great team win."
"We showed a lot of grit and heart today," remarked Oaks Head Coach Mike Keller. "It was a war out there. Both teams battled and I'm proud of our guys."
Now in first place, Menlo travels to Simpson on Wednesday October 19th for a tilt against the Red Hawks. Kickoff is slated for 3:00pm.