ON THE PITCH . . . The nationally No. 1-ranked Palo Alto 93 Blue has some work to do if the local 18U boys' soccer team has any plans of playing for the championship of the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series on Sunday in Phoenix, Ariz. Palo Alto opened play in the four-team, round-robin tournament with a 2-1 loss to defending champion and national No. 2 Alpharetta Rush (Ga.) on Wednesday, despite a last-minute first half goal and a sustained attack in the second half. Alpharetta Rush scored its first goal at 11:10 on a short corner play and scored its second at 29:50 on a steal and a breakaway. At the 46:00 mark, Palo Alto was awarded a free kick from 30 yards out and Riley Hanley scored on a direct kick that beat the keeper cleanly, shortly before the first half ended. To start the second half, Palo Alto shifted to a 4-5-1 to slow down the speedy Georgians and mount an attack up the middle. The tactic worked as Palo Alto carried the run of play and had five good scoring chances, but could not score again. Palo Alto played the YMS Thunder of Yardley (Pa.) on Thursday. Yardley won its opening match, 2-1, over Kansas City on a late goal. The top two teams from the round-robin stage will advance to Sunday morning's title match. The Palo Alto 93 Blue has played together since 2002. This is their first trip to nationals. Palo Alto had to win the Northern California State Championship and the Far West Regional Championship to qualify for the trip to Phoenix. The players are recent high school graduates so this will be their last time playing together as a team. The roster includes
Trevor Assaf (Crystal Springs), Cameron McElfresh (Gunn), Andrew Wohl (Gunn), Mackenzie Kelley (Mountain View), Sam Hayward (Gunn), Mark Raftrey (Palo Alto), Zach Hummel (Palo Alto), Miguel Vazquez (Half Moon Bay), Yotam Kasznik (Gunn), Daniel Tirosh (Gunn), Juan Gamez (Mission, SF), Grahame Fitz (Summit Prep), Ian Leung (St. Francis), Evan Coutre (St. Francis), Jose Mendoza (UNLV), A.J. Beloff (Carlmont), Ricky Minno (Palo Alto), Fernando Salazar (Foothill College) and Hanley.
OF LOCAL NOTE . . . Palo Alto native Evan Cranston, a recent Castilleja graduate, will continue her water polo career at Brown University next spring. Cranston, a goalie, was one of five recruits announced by head coach Felix Mercado this week . . . Stanford graduate Michael Taylor was a triple short of hitting for the cycle as he collected five RBI as host Sacramento topped Reno, 10-1, on Monday night at Raley Field in Triple-A baseball . . . Former Stanford football wide receiver Doug Baldwin signed with the Seattle Seahawks on Monday.
COACHING CORNER . . . Palo Alto Knights Youth Football is seeking experienced head and assistant football coaches for the 2011 season. Contact: Mike Piha 269-6100 or firstname.lastname@example.org. . . . Sacred Heart Prep is seeking an assistant cross-country coach. All interested candidates please contact AD Frank Rodriguez at email@example.com or 473.4031.