Los Gatos High junior Keegan Mctighe celebrates his overtime goal with Shlok Shrivastava in Wednesday's CCS Division II playoff semifinal at Menlo School. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

The Los Gatos High boys soccer team had just given up three goals in rapid-fire fashion to turn a 2-0 lead into a one-goal deficit heading into halftime in its Central Coast Section Division II playoff semifinal against Menlo School.

The Knights’ final two first-half goals came in stoppage time, adding to the Wildcats’ frustration.

“I think we were a little shook, we kind of fell off and we kind of needed to remotivate them at halftime,” Los Gatos coach Joel Fumia said. “It was, ‘Hey, we need to refocus, there’s plenty of time.’ But we weren’t playing particularly well at the end of the half, and we gave up two in the last six minutes, so that can hurt a team. But I think we scored in the second half within the first 10, the first eight [minutes], so we responded really quickly and well. And that gave us a little momentum and now we are playing a little bit better.”

The first 40 minutes-plus was a harbinger for the rest of the match, which featured three ties, three lead changes, furious back and forth action, and physical play that resulted in the head referee issuing a half-dozen yellow cards.

After the teams were deadlocked 4-4 through 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime, the No. 3 seed Wildcats (14-2-4) advanced in a marathon penalty kick session, 12-11. 

They play No. 8 seed Hollister (11-9-2) in the championship game at Del Mar High at 12:30pm on Saturday. This is the first time since 1996–long before any of the players were born–that Los Gatos has advanced to a CCS final (its lone title came in 1995).

In the end, all Fumia and the players could do was try to catch their breath, gather their emotions and marvel at how it all went down.

“That’s the type of game where it’s tough to have a loser because it’s so hard fought down to the very end,” Fumia said. “And you go 12, 13 penalties, and unfortunately, someone has to win at some point. But I think both teams poured their heart and soul into this game, they gave everything they had, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat on their side. It could’ve been either one of us at that point. 

“We got knocked down, we got back up, we go down a goal, then we go ahead a goal, then they hit an unbelievable goal to tie it, and now we’re in penalties. Could’ve won it, we didn’t win it, the amount of emotion, it’s insane. These guys, though, they’re a pretty special team, they’ve had a great year, a good bond. They stayed focused, locked into the game, found a way, and at some point you have to find a winner.”

Speaking of locked in and focused, junior Keegan Mctighe was downright clutch, scoring the Wildcats’ final two goals—the first score drew Los Gatos level at 3-3 and the second put the team ahead 4-3—and perhaps, even more impressive, he did a scoring recap after Fumia remarked, “I can’t even remember what the heck happened in this game.”

That’s how intense the match was. Mctighe scored his first goal in the 47th minute, a huge boost for Los Gatos after a painful ending to the first half. That made it 3-3 and the score stood through the final whistle of regulation. Mctighe scored for a second time in the 91st minute, displaying his nose for the goal and perseverance in finding the net.

Atsuya Kashima, who along with Flavio Barney-Santiago were pivotal throughout the match in their ability to possess the ball and distribute, got into the attacking third before the ball eventually landed on the feet of Shlok Shrivastava.

The junior had already scored once in the first half and unleashed a shot from the right side inside the 18-yard box, hitting the crossbar. The ball deflected back to Mctighe, whose initial shot was blocked by a defender.

Undeterred, Mctighe followed the play and scored into the open goal, putting Los Gatos in prime position to close things out in overtime. However, Menlo responded—just like you knew it would—off a free kick from 35 yards away that had a beeline to the upper right corner in one of the more amazing shots you’ll see at the high school level.

In extra time in overtime, no less.

“I mean, dude, the goal they scored to tie it, that’s an unbelievable goal,” Fumia said. “The free kick by the 10, that’s ridiculous. You do this (clap hands in applause) when you see a goal like that.”

Wildcats goalkeeper Leon Sarashki was the key player in the marathon PK shootout, as he made two saves—both to his left—that allowed Los Gatos to prevail. After both teams went a perfect 5-for-5 with their first set of shooters, Sarashki made a diving punch save to his left on Menlo’s sixth attempt.

But Los Gatos went wide left on the ensuing shot, and the Nos. 7-10 players from each team scored to make it 9-9. The next two players from each team scored but Sarashki went to his left again, this time making a kick save on Menlo’s 13th PK.

The Wildcats were in position to win it again, and Mike Vick didn’t disappoint, easily scoring to send the team into nirvana. Fumia had his team practice PKs, and it looked like it.

“You have to practice them, we have everybody take them,” he said. “Penalties can be a little bit of luck, because in the professionals, the top players in the world miss PKs, top teams lose in PKs, so it’s not necessarily based on the best team winning once you get to PKs.”

Max Lees’ header put the team up 1-0 in the 19th minute. It was a textbook play, with Lees out leaping a couple of defenders in front of the goal after an unbelievable throw-in from Shrivastava from the right sideline.

Not many players can deliver a throw-in from 30 yards away to the penalty area, but that’s exactly what Shrivastava did. 


The No. 2 seed Wildcats (12-6-4) scored two quick goals and made it stand in a 3-1 win over Valley Christian Wednesday night in the Division III semifinals. 

They play top-seed Piedmont Hills (13-7-1) in the championship match at Del Mar High at 10am on Saturday. Los Gatos is making its first CCS title game appearance since 2014, when it won the last of its five section championships. 

The Wildcats’ titles came in 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 2014, to go along with runner-up finishes in 1993, 2005, 2008, and 2012. Los Gatos reached the CCS Division I semifinals last year, but lost to eventual champion Sequoia. 

“As long as we’re making steps forward, that’s the biggest thing,” Wildcats coach Jessica Ingram said. “So it’s exciting to see we’re growing and taking steps forward in the right direction.”

Abby Nelson is part of a sensational freshmen class, and her performance vs. Valley Christian could best be described as a tour de force. Nelson scored in the 12th and 16th minutes, and nearly had a hat trick late in the game when her shot bounced off the crossbar. 

“Abby has been a strong freshman for us,” Ingram said. “I’m excited to have her be a part of the program for the next three years. She’s going to continue to crush it, and she’s definitely a person who has been putting away her chances and creating a lot of goal scoring opportunities for us.”

Maci Schwab scored an insurance goal in stoppage time to put an exclamation point on the victory. Valley Christian, despite being outplayed for large stretches, was just one goal down after it scored four minutes into the second half. 

“We gave up a hiccup in the second half, which kind of put us a little bit on our heels,” Ingram said. “But they responded well, they stayed focused and that was the biggest thing we talked about going into training. It’s how do we respond and how do we anticipate and take the lead when possible. And tonight, the kids fought together and they came out strong.”

Caitlyn Simons made her presence felt early, winning 1-on-1 battles and 50-50 balls, creating scoring opportunities and banging a couple of shots off the crossbar as well. Schwab and Avery Edson were active throughout, while Macie Yannoni, Ellie White and Kate Gruetter put together solid games, whether it was facilitating the ball or being strong defensively. 

Los Gatos finished 6-3-3 and in fourth place in the ultra-tough SCVAL De Anza Division, one of the top leagues in the CCS. 

“I think [competing in] the A league showed us we were at that level,” Ingram said. “I think last year we were blowing teams out [in the El Camino Division], so when we played more difficult teams, the girls didn’t really have to respond. This year they were able to go through adversity and learned how to respond.”

Freshman sensation Abby Nelson prepares to unload a shot for one of her two goals in the Wildcats’ 3-1 win over Valley Christian. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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