Thursday, September 27, 2012

Walla Walla picks up four points in Spokane doubleheader

Walla Walla men picked up a win while the Spokane defense stayed strong against champs - Photos: Gerald Barnhart
The Bigfoot of CC Spokane women maintained their unbeaten status and kept the top spot in the NWAACC East Division with a 1-1 draw Wednesday at Spokane Falls, but the Walla Walla CC Warriors were the better school on the day by also picking up a 2-1 victory in the men’s match.

Walla Walla CC 1 :: 1 CC Spokane - WOMEN

For the unbeaten ladies of CCS, Wednesday’s result may be a pivotal moment for the team in its hopes of returning to top of the league for the first time since winning the NWAACC championship in 2006 against the Warriors, who are the reigning three-time league champion, have nine division championships and have reached the league final the past seven seasons. The draw snapped a nine-game losing streak against Walla Walla since that 2-1 victory in the Final, a series of results in which they were outscored by at least three goals in all but one 1-0 decision.

In the early going of the contest it looked like the streak would continue on as Walla Walla put continual pressure on the Spokane defense, a unit that had given up just two goals in its 4-0-0 start to the campaign.

“I think we had something to prove – that we are still here,” said WWCC men's and women's head coach Chad Bodnar, referring to the team’s 3-1-0 start in league play and 4-2-0 start overall. “We’ve slipped up a couple games this year and we had something to prove, and the kids knew we were playing a team that we would be competing with for the top spot in the East region.

“I think we started the match well and I think the first half we played well; we kind of dropped off in the second half. I don’t know if that’s fitness or just lost concentration, but we did drop off in the second half and we’re gonna have to do a better job of playing for 90 minutes, not just in spurts.”

Five minutes in a ball lofted in toward the six was struck on the volley by Alli Madril (Boise, ID) from about eight yards. It was nicely saved by Asia Porter (Spokane, WA), who did well to slap the rebound away despite being sprawled out in a prone position.

Two minutes later a long ball over the top of the defense allowed Jordan Rodriguez (Payette, ID) to run on and fire from about 16 yards, slipping through the arms of Porter’s attempted catch, but rolling wide.

In the 10th minute Paige Pontarolo (Walla Walla, WA) nearly put the Warriors on the board with a 21 yard effort that smacked off the crossbar and in the 17th minute Emily Jordan, in her return to her hometown, let loose from the top of the box, forcing a diving save from Porter to push the ball out of play.

Anderson (5) congratulated on strike
From there, Spokane began to clamp down on the Warriors attack and the game evened out into primarily a midfield battle until the final half hour of the match. 

“We started out with a 4-4-2 and they were just beating us in the midfield,” said CC Spokane women’s head coach Jim Martinson. “We talked about it all week long; we trained that we would be outnumbered in the middle. They just had us there so we had to drop one of our forwards into the midfield and play 4-5-1, and we had to lock it down a little bit better. I think we did in the middle. We did a better job; we just lost a little bit of our attack.”

Set pieces would ultimately break the stalemate. A corner kick would put the Warriors in front in the 61st minute when Tash Anderson (Bend, OR) got her head on a Marais Hicks’ restart from the left side, nodding it into the far side netting from about 12 yards out on the left side.

Tasha Luu, CC Spokane (match gallery)
But Spokane answered immediately, getting the rare equalizer three minutes later directly off a free kick from a narrow angle deep in the right corner of the field. Tasha Luu (Colville, WA) sent the ball soaring over the keeper and into the far side netting.

“It was a hard-fought game, back-and-forth with two good programs playing,” said Bodnar, who is relying on a less experienced squad this year. “We’re trying to find (the leaders on the team). It’s a smaller sophomore class than what we’ve had and we’ve kind of started a little slow this season and not the way that we normally do, and we are trying to figure out who those people are.

“Kaheisha Johnson (Richland, WA), who plays in the back, is obviously one of them for us. She did a good job today taking their strikers out of the game. They didn’t get in behind us other than the set piece we gave up, which is a bad giveaway on our part and a bad foul. The kid hit a good shot. I thought our backs did well and Johnson played well for us today.” 

Both teams had a chance to get the winner. Walla Walla’s Paige Sorensen (Kennewick, WA) rifled the ball from about 20 yards that forced a fantastic aerial save from Porter in the 82nd minute.

And with two minutes remaining in the match, Spokane was literally inches away from the winning strike twice in a matter of seconds as two shots caromed off the posts. The play began at the top of the box with Alli Floyd (Spokane, WA) dishing the ball off squarely to Carla DePaz (Cashmere, WA), who catches the keeper slightly out of position. Her shot from slightly to the left side of the box, however, struck the bottom of the far post, rebounding out to Leteashea Currie, whose effort from the right side found the front of the left post, leaving everyone stunned.

“Feel a little unfortunate that we don’t put that one in at the end with the two off the post and steal that game from them, but it’s always a battle,” said Martinson. “It’s the top two teams in the East, it’s always a battle. They had the run of the play for a lot of the game, but we definitely had a chance to win this game.”

Walla Walla CC 2 :: 1 CC Spokane - MEN

Kyle Menchaca, Walla Walla CC
The Walla Walla men’s team got off a quick start just like their ladies, but found the found the back of the net five minutes in to take control of the match from the early going.

A long free kick from Jhony Mendoza (Yakima, WA) on the left side found its way through the box to Kyle Menchaca (Meridian, ID), who put it inside the post.

The game settled briefly and Spokane had some of the pressure after about 10 minutes, but Walla Walla would take full control for most of the first half of play. In the 23rd minute a nice shot from Max Smith about 16 yards out nearly snuck inside the near post, but a nice diving stop from Ian Graves (Medical Lake) tipped it wide.

After a couple more good Walla Walla chances were stuffed in the 32nd minute, the Warriors pushed the lead to two with a little bit of fortune. Kentaro Bodzewski unleashed a 25 yard shot from the center of the pitch that found its way through the defense in the 35th minute only to be denied by the left post. The rebound, however, caromed out to the left side of the area where it was collected by Ivan Chomorro and buiried into the back of the net from about 10 yards.

The Warriors took the two goal lead to the break, but nearly had a third a minute after the strike when Mario Guizar (Kennewick, WA) nodded the ball down inside the box and unleashed a shot that went narrowly wide of the far post.

“The disappointing part is I think we could have killed the game off in the first half and had three, and I think our job would have been done,” said Bodnar.

The second half was a different matter though as the Bigfoot came out with a greater level of intensity, fighting back in an attempt to rally.

Isaac Peter, CC Spokane (match gallery)
“Credit to Spokane, they came out and switched to a three front and played hard and got in on us. Any time you’re two goals up and let one come back they are gonna work harder, and are gonna think they have a chance. I thought we played well for about 45 minutes today in the first half and then kinda just turned the switch off. That’ll kill ya down the road, so hopefully we use it as a learning lesson going forward.”

The spirited effort finally paid off at the hour mark when a ball from Devon Prince (Medical Lake) to the top of the box found Isaac Peter (Spokane, WA), who was one-v-one with a defender. Peter turned to get a step on his marker and fired into the back of the net from about 14 yards for his first collegiate goal, continuing his momentum to the endline in celebration and letting loose two years of frustration by blasting the spare ball beside the net beyond the distant track and fenceline.

“I was really, really pleased with the performance and the effort the boys put out.,” said Bigfoot head coach Kenny Krestian. “We talked at halftime about ‘we can either make a game of this, or we can have the wheels fall off again like it did against Tacoma’ and to their credit they came out, worked hard and got that first goal – very proud of em. They kept pressing and pressing, but couldn’t get the second.

“Ian Graves in goal made some good saves for us to keep us in the match. We are really looking at using this match as a building block; something to step from and continue to go from,” said Krestian. “He’s a guy that can play. He’s just his own worst enemy with his confidence. When he’s confident, he can play. When he gets in his own mind, he struggles with that.”

The goal, though, served as a bit of a wakeup call for the visitors, who looked to restore the two-goal advantage to secure the victory. Time after time though, Graves would rescue the Bigfoot, keeping the home side in the contest.

“We switched our shape a little bit to be more conservative and getting more guys behind the ball but they were pushing a lot of guys forward so we had a chance to get in and counter with the little bit of speed that we put up top,” Bodnar said. “It’s something that down the road we learn from and get the third when we are pushing like that and the game’s over. Had some chances and created some chances, and looked good at times going forward, but Spokane obviously made a game out of it.”

Ian Graves, CC Spokane
In the 72nd minute Sergio Burgos collected the ball in the box for Walla Walla and had an excellent chance from eight yards only to be stoned by a great reaction save from Graves, who recovered well to storm out to the left where Guizar cracked a shot from 10 yards, stuffing the second chance from close range. Three minutes later Graves stopped another blasted shot from 11 yards by Jonathan Rodriguez (Connell, WA).

In the 79th minute Rodriguez would get his shot past Graves from about 15 yards, but Bigfoot defender Travis Hill (Spokane, WA) was in perfect position backing him up and cleared the ball away off the goal line.

“It’s a good group of kids. We’re talented. We have a lot of attacking flair and a lot of guys that can go forward,” Bodnar said of his team moving forward. “We are gonna have to learn to defend a little better We have given up some goals in the last three games. One or two goals in a game, if we keep leaking them, is gonna cost you going down the road so we gotta work on being a little tighter, and a little smarter, in the back. A positive to come up to Spokane and get three points for us is good, it’s always a tough place to play.”

As for the Bigfoot, who are winless in conference play, the task at hand is just finding that first win to change the momentum.

“We got the monkey on our back right now where if we can get that win, I think the boys will have that confidence to say ‘yeah, we can win,’ and hopefully start getting some breaks and bounces to go our way,” said Krestian, who heads west this week to face Peninsula. “I figure they are gonna be very similar to Walla Walla – same intensity, same style of play, so we gotta be prepared to go from where we were at in the second half and start the match from where we were at with our energy, the tempo and the effort.”