Tuesday, November 13, 2012

All-Star laden Sasquatch headed to Tukwila for NWAACC Final Four

It was a cold afternoon with temperatures just above freezing after the season's first snowfall a few days before
NWAACC Semifinals set for men & women; All-Stars & honors announced

The record-setting CC Spokane women affirmed their status as a top seed Saturday by clinching a ticket to the league’s Final Four with a fairly easy 3-1 victory over Whatcom CC, the second seed from the North. They join the trio of Peninsula, Everett and Clackamas, who are all returning from last year’s quartet.

After a program-best campaign in which the Sasquatch set new team records in goals, fewest goals allowed and fewest losses, the team faced their first postseason test at Spokane Falls CC after a first round bye and made it look like a walk in the park.

The visitors only had two quality chances in the contest, including the game’s first opportunity six minutes in when a bouncing ball in the six created anxiety as neither Spokane keeper Asia Porter nor any of the players in the box could get a solid foot on the loose ball before Porter eventually dropped on it.

That chance aside, the first 15-20 minutes were rather slow as WCC sat back and Spokane struggled to find their touch in the frigid afternoon air. But then, as if they flipped a switch, the Bigfoot found their rhythm and took full control of the affair, creating several opportunities.

“We didn’t know what to expect out of their attack; we knew they’d be defensive,” said CC Spokane head coach Jim Martinson. “We weren’t sure how fast and furious they would come at us. We kind of figured they would be a real direct team so we talked about early on - first 10 minutes - let’s feel them out; we’ll play a little defensive to see what they’re about and then then try to get at them. The girls, they did a great job and responded.”

Rainey Pelzel (L) celebrates opener
A second chance on a corner kick in the 22nd minute would give the hosts the advantage when Rainey Pelzel surprised everyone with a looping shot from a narrow angle just inside the edge of the box on the right side that lofted over the keeper’s reach.

“I honestly don’t know how she got that one in. When she started to strike it I thought ‘what is she doing – that is a terrible angle,’ and it goes in. To her credit, that was big.”

Five minutes later another second chance off a corner nearly doubled the lead for Spokane. The attempt on goal off Jamie Krediet’s corner weakly went to Whatcom’s keeper, but Allie Holterman fumbled the ball at the feet of Lateashea Currie, who stabbed it through her arms only to see the ball cleared away from the line by Brooke Steinberg.

A corner at the other end in the 29th minute nearly allowed Whatcom to take the game to the break even when a corner was redirected on goal to the far post, but Pelzel did well to guard her post on the play and clear the ball away.

In the second Whatcom had no realistic chance at a comeback as they were facing a version of the team that - when it is in cruise control and having fun on the field - flies at the opponent, often with smiles on their faces, from every angle via what is arguably the deepest offensive talent pool in the program’s history, including school record-holding scorers Currie and Alli Floyd.

“We knew that they would be a full defensive team. That was what they did all year; they were very defensive,” said Martinson after the match. “We suspected they would bring somebody out of the back, push them forward – and I almost think it was to our advantage. They tried to generate a little more offense, but we’re so strong up (front) that when they take a back out it, makes a difference for us.

Lateashea Currie attracted a crowd
“We had Kat Tsoukalas and Rainey on the outsides to provide width and swing it out there, and they were big today for us.  Rainey comes up with two big goals. They’re focused on Lateashea up top, and it frees us up on the width.”

Floyd, who led the team in scoring a year ago by matching Currie’s single season record 23 goals set in 2010 season , nearly had her 12th of the season eight minutes into the second half when she took a touch and fired a shot from about 26 yards out that slammed off the crossbar and dropped in front of the line, giving a second chance opportunity to Currie that was partially blocked and later cleared away. 

Floyd’s chance was the first of many created by the acres of wide open space the Bigfoot were finding between Whatcom’s midfield and back line. Time after time the attacking players like Floyd, Currie, Pelzel, Tsoukalas and Tasha Luu were finding plenty of room to move and create chances against the exposed back line.

“I think that was part of them making some changes and freeing up space for us. We didn’t stray much from our game plan and didn’t stray much from our lineup and our system. I think once they pulled their body out of there to push ‘em up it really was to our advantage.”

Gaby Kennedy doubled lead with PK
Fifteen minutes in Currie took advantage of the free space, driving into the area and forcing Steinberg, who was beaten numerous times on the day by the speedy Sasquatch strikers, to take her down, giving the Bigfoot a penalty that Gaby Kennedy calmly drove into the left side of the goal to double the lead.

In the 74th minute Currie had yet another chance when a free kick at midfield from the left touchline bounced into the box and was headed to the arms of the dropping goalkeeper. Holterman, however, gave up on her commitment to snare the ball at the last second when she saw Currie crashing in on the play, but the striker was unable to follow up and put away the loose ball.

Perhaps over-confident they were headed to the victory with eight minutes left, the hosts were caught a bit off guard by the Orcas on a quickly taken free kick after Luu had committed a foul just outside the defensive edge of the center circle. The visitors quickly sent the ball into the box with successive passes with Brittany McMullen finishing from 10 yards.

The hopes of an Orca rally, though, were short-lived with Pelzel providing an immediate answer less than a minute later. The ball was sent up the left side where she drove into the box where she fired from about eight yards and followed up to put away the rebounded save of her initial shot.

“Lateashea just making so many problems for them up top; all the little chances and second chances that she almost got - like I said, I think they were so focused on her it allowed Rainey to be a little free. Rainey did the job. She’s just a workhorse and she did it today.” 

From there, it was an easy final few minutes of running out the clock to secure their second trip to the Final Four in three years and third since the league went to a four-division format in 2005.

“It’s exciting. It will be a great weekend. When it comes down to the final four, everybody is good so it will be a battle,” said Martinson after the victory. “We are assuming Walla Walla and Peninsula will be in there and they’ll have to battle each other on the first day and we’ll have the Southern 1 or the Northern 3. We’ll get a report on them and go for it.”

As it turned out, the three-time defending champion Walla Walla side saw their seven-year streak of championship game appearances come to an end Saturday in a 1-0 loss at Everett, who claimed the victory on a strike from Kassandra Blakely in the 16th minute. Everett’s victory helped make the Final Four event a full field of division champions as Peninsula cruised to a 3-0 victory against Lane and Clackamas took a 1-0 decision against Shoreline on a Tayler Ficek goal in the sixth minute of overtime.

Clackamas’ overtime victory brings the Cougars back to the semifinals for a third consecutive year. With the return of the Everett Trojans and Peninsula Pirates, it marks only the second time since the four-division alignment that three of the four teams have advanced to the semifinals two consecutive years (2007-08: Walla Walla, Shoreline, Clackamas).  

East champion Walla Walla CC advanced to the Final Four
NWAACC MEN:  The men’s bracket nearly matched the women with a full field of division champions with three of the four moving onto the semifinals. Highline, the West’s second seed, was the lone exception, knocking off East champion Clark, 5-3, in a wild, back-and-forth quarterfinal where Clark rallied to take the lead and later equalize before finally succumbing on three unanswered goals.

The other two contests on Saturday were tight-knit stalemates with Edmonds advancing on a 60th minute strike against Columbia Basin, the second-seed out of the East, and Peninsula claiming a 1-0 victory against Chemeketa, who knocked Spokane out Wednesday, on a strike with only two minutes remaining.

On Sunday, Walla Walla became the third division champion to advance to the Final Four. The Warriors trailed Tacoma for over an hour after giving up the opener in the 16th minute, but found three goals in the final 10 minutes for the victory. Max Smith evened the contest at one apiece in the 80th minute and Ivan Chamorro put the hosts ahead a minute later. He added a second in stoppage time to lock up the victory.

NWAACC HONORS: On Tuesday, the league announced the award winners for the 2012 season. Spokane led the way for both the men and women, picking up Coach of the Year and Most Valuable Player recognition. Listed below are the honorees for individuals representing the East Division teams…

East Men’s Co-Coaches of the Year: Kenny Krestian (CC Spokane) / Chad Bodnar (Walla Walla CC)
East Men’s MVP: Isaac Peter (CC Spokane)

East Women’s Coach of the Year: Jim Martinson (CC Spokane)
East Women’s MVP: Lateashea Currie (CC Spokane)

NWAACC East/West All-Star Selections – WOMEN
[full list]

F – Lateashea Currie – CC Spokane
F – Tasha Luu (Colville, WA) – CC Spokane
F – Tash Anderson (Bend, OR) – Walla Walla CC
M – Paige Sorensen (Kennewick, WA) – Walla Walla CC
M – Alli Floyd (Colbert, WA) – CC Spokane
M – Kat Tsoukalas (Kennewick, WA) – CC Spokane
M – Meghan Sorensen (Kennewick, WA) – Walla Walla CC
M – Gaby Kennedy (Spokane, WA) – CC Spokane
D – Sarah Nanny (Spokane, WA) – CC Spokane
D – Kai Johnson (Richland, WA) – Walla Walla CC
D – Peyton Moon (Nampa, ID) – Walla Walla CC
D – Jamie Krediet – CC Spokane
G – Asia Porter (Spokane, WA) – CC Spokane
G – Kylie Mascol (Boise, ID) – Walla Walla CC

NWAACC East/West All-Star Selections – MEN [full list]

F – Josh Dalmas (Meridian, ID) – Treasure Valley CC
F – Isaac Peter (Spokane, WA) – CC Spokane
M – Ivan Chamorro  – Walla Walla CC
M – Kentaro Bodzewski  – Walla Walla CC
M – Jesse Esquivel (Yakima, WA) – Columbia Basin College
M – Richard Renteria (Pasco, WA) – Columbia Basin College
M – Thomas Tran (Spokane, WA) – CC Spokane
D – Jhony Mendoza (Yakima, WA) – Walla Walla CC
D – Cesar Arroyo (Brewster, WA) – CC Spokane
D – Danny Hernandez (Selah, WA) – Columbia Basin College
D – Travis Hill (Spokane, WA) – CC Spokane
G – Luis Cruz – Treasure Valley CC
G – Daniel Romero (Wenatchee, WA) – Walla Walla CC