Eagles need strong finish to make section playoffs

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High senior Harry Allen, surrounded by Mountain View players Jan. 4, scored the game-tying goal in last week’s rematch.

The Central Coast Section soccer playoffs are only two weeks away, and the Los Altos High boys find themselves in a tenuous position when it comes to earning an invitation.

With four games left in the regular season, the Eagles are amid a crowded field of teams vying for one of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division’s three automatic playoff berths. While only three of the seven teams in the division have more wins than the two Los Altos has, the Eagles sit in sixth place due to the four losses and two ties on their record.

“This year is extremely even,” coach Vava Marques said of the De Anza. “Anyone can beat anybody.”

Los Altos proved that Jan. 18. In what Marques called “our best win,” the host Eagles surprised first-place Homestead 2-1. Los Altos grabbed an early lead and didn’t surrender a goal until the final five minutes.

“We played our A game,” said Marques, in his 19th year as coach. “We played really well. We were focused, we played together and we followed the game plan.”

The Eagles followed that with a 1-all tie at rival Mountain View Jan. 23. Los Altos evened the game late in the first half on a goal by Harry Allen.

Allen, a senior, is Los Altos’ top goal scorer. Sophomore Jimmy Dessouki is second in goals and among the leaders in assists. Both players scored in Friday’s 3-2 home loss to Los Gatos.

Allen is one of the most experienced players on a squad that last spring graduated 13 players, including 10 starters.

“We’re not as big, strong and mature as were last year,” said Marques, whose squad took second in league a season ago and qualified for the CCS Open Division playoffs (losing in the quarterfinals). “We’re extremely technical and we move the ball really well, but we lose games because of young mistakes.”

The team’s youngest player is Arya Hatami, the lone freshman on the 25-man roster. The midfielder has several assists, according to the coach.

“He’s going to be a very good player for us in the future,” Marques said.

Seniors Tyler Poulsen and Nick Fletcher anchor the defense, the coach noted. He described the two center backs as “solid players.”

Marques has also been impressed with goalkeeper Ryan Kelleher, who has posted four shutouts in his first season as a starter.

“He’s doing great for us,” Marques said of the senior.

If the Eagles’ record isn’t great enough to finish among the top three teams in the division, the coach is hopeful they will be considered for an at-large playoff berth. Thanks to a strong pre-league performance (3-0-4), Los Altos is 5-4-6 overall.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Marques said of qualifying for CCS for the fourth year in a row. “Three more wins should get us in, but if we only get two wins, it will depend on the other teams’ results.”

Los Altos is scheduled to visit Saratoga 3:30 p.m. today and host Santa Clara at the same time Friday.

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