Friday, October 11, 2013

NWAACC East contenders Walla Walla and Spokane split doubleheader

Spokane and Walla Walla square off in the return half of the series October 30 | Photos: Gerald Barnhart
CC Spokane and visiting Walla Walla CC - the clear NWAACC East Division leaders in both genders - played to a pair of thrilling encounters Wednesday afternoon at Spokane Falls CC with both games featuring even play and thrilling second half finishes. The CC Spokane women prevailed 2-0 with a fantastic Tasha Luu strike and a late counter finished by Rainey Pelzel while the men's contest nearly went the distance scoreless before Walla Walla's Mario Guizar struck in the 89th followed by a frenzied finish.

Walla Walla CC 0 :: 2 CC Spokane - WOMEN

The women's contest kicked off the doubleheader between the two powerhouses and each side had periods of play in the first half, but the Sasquatch came out and pressed the visiting Warriors from the first minute, giving them very little room to move and even few opportunities to create scoring chances. Despite that, the Warriors had a pair of decent looks back-to-back with Oryian Matheny letting loose a shot from just inside the box that went went right to goalkeeper Emily Moscrip. Two minutes later Alli Madril (Boise, ID) got her head to a short cross from the right side, nodding it narrowly over from about seven yards.

The second half, just as even, was a lot more lively right from the beginning as Walla Walla came out with much more intensity. A Shauntice Perrigo cross from the right side four minutes in nearly resulted in the opener as it fell into the area, but Madril was unable to get her head on it and Delaney Romero (Yakima, WA) was unable to get her boot on it as it scooted by the far side. Six minutes later Lexi Miller (Pasco, WA) sent a 24-yard effort barely wide right.

In the 57th minute the Warriors sent a ball behind the defense, putting Tash Anderson (Bend, OR) all alone inside the box where Moscrip made a unexpected stop on what was a certain goal, dropping to make a point-blank save at the top of the six.

"We've been defending with three in the back most of the season," said CC Spokane women's head coach Jim Martinson. "We went with four, and credit to the back four, they really locked it down real well and Emily had to make a few big saves but, yeah, we didn't see a lot of real super threatening shots from Walla Walla today -- credit to our backs.

"Our defenders, they did their job. They just defended the heck out of things like they were supposed to do. Walla Walla is one of those teams that if you can keep it level for a long time, I think they are used to being ahead. And after playing those last 20 minutes as hard as they had to, it might have been to our benefit and our girls they just picked up steam as the game went on."

Midway through the half the Bigfoot began to answer back, taking advantage of the slight fatigue setting in amongst the Warriors. A ball won at midfield in the 69th minute fell to Kat Tsoukalas (Kennewick, WA), who drove up the right side and crossed to the top of the box for Rashelle Fisher, whose one-time effort was not quite enough to beat goalkeeper Aiko Johnson.

With the Warriors flagging a little, the Sasquatch moved Tasha Luu from the midfield position in which she was dominating the entire field from as she did a year ago to her new position for this year up top. The switch provided immediate results as the defense had a difficult time handling her combination of strength and ability on the ball.

In the 72nd minute she collected the ball with her back to goal, brought it down and volleyed it on the turn from 25 yards, launching it on a rope under the crossbar for the opening goal and sending the Bigfoot into a frenzy.

"We started Tash underneath the midfield as a holding midfielder," said Martinson. "One of the things Tash is really good at is winning balls in the air and we knew that we had to stop the service from Walla Walla, and she did that. But, we were almost too defensive so we gambled a little bit and pushed her forward and she did what she does best: score goals."

Two minutes later Walla Walla nearly found an equalizer when Miller directed a long effort high toward goal that gave Moscrip a bit of a test, but after making the initial stop she was able to catch it to end the danger.

With the Warriors pressing to pull even, they had a pair of consecutive corners that were succeeded by a quick counter in the 89th minute that saw the Sasquatch double the lead on. The ball was cleared well out to midfield, finding Fisher with space to run slightly right of the center circle, but as the defender was shutting down the run, speedy track team member Laura Seymour (Spokane, WA) had sprinted straight up the middle to catch up on the play, allowing Fisher to dish it off to further the counter. Seymour lost the handle on the ball momentarily, but regained possession in time to play out to the left to Rainey Pelzel, who stepped up and released a low 20-yard effort that found the lower corner inside the far post out of the keeper's reach. Jubilation poured from the Bigfoot bench and players as they knew they had secured their first victory over the Warriors since Spokane defeated them for the NWAACC title in 2006 after using a pair of draws last year to help end WWCC's nine-year reign as East champions.

"We went a little more defensive; we knew we'd have to be a little more defensive and score on some counter-attacks," said Martinson. "We made a move with Tasha, pushed her forward a little bit and she scored within minutes so it was one of those days it paid off."

The loss was the first of the season for Walla Walla (7-1-1, 11-1-1 overall), leaving the Sasquatch as the only remaining team with an unbeaten overall record (8-0-4). Whatcom (5-0-4) and Peninsula (9-0-0) are the only others unbeaten in league play with Spokane (6-0-3).

"There's always going to be some roadblocks along the way, and I think the women ran into one today and just kind of a complacent performance; and Spokane, credit to them," said Walla Walla men's and women's head coach Chad Bodnar. "I think it will be a good learning experience for our women and something they are gonna have to definitely raise the way we are playing again. I think we just kinda went on a little lull there.

"The same thing with the men, we tied CBC last week. For us, that was not a very good result at home, but to come on the road against a good Spokane side and get a result is definitely a positive for us."

Walla Walla CC 1 :: 0 CC Spokane - MEN

The men's match played out very similar to the women's before it with both sides finding some success with possession, but little in the area of offensive opportunities in the first half.

Spokane, arguably, had the best chance of the first half when Robert Kissinger-Smith (Spokane, WA) drove up the middle and rifled a shot that was slightly deflected just wide of the right post in the 20th minute.

Though it never got quite as physical as the women's match, things picked up a bit in the second half with both teams finally finding some better looks at goal.

Walla Walla had back-to-back chances a third of the way into the period. A well driven cross in the 61st minute found Michael Mollay (Boise, ID) inside the six, and his header forced a great reaction save from goalkeeper Curtis Hill (Spokane, WA). Two minutes later Hill nearly made a costly mistake as he ventured well out into the area in a flying attempt to punch the ball away, but he only got a piece of the ball and fell to the ground on the play. The Warriors, however, were not able to capitalize on the open goal as the quick volley was sent well over from about 16 yards out on the left side of the area.

In the 67th minute Spokane nearly took the lead when Devin Leon received the ball on the left side and unleashed a shot with pace from about 28 yards that forced a good save from Ulisses Faurrieta.

"He was a little shaky at times bobbling some crosses and stuff, but definitely earned his money at the end there," said Bodnar of his keeper. "He made some great saves and some that you look from the side and think that ball is in the net and somehow he just kept keeping it out of there. Credit to him for fighting through it."
Mario Guizar - MATCH GALLERY

As time wore down on the clock, Spokane began to apply more and more pressure on the offensive end, but it was Walla Walla that finally broke through as it looked like the game may end scoreless.

A quick counter out of the midfield in the 89th minute saw the ball come to Mario Guizar (Kennewick, WA), and the star striker did the rest from there. He drove down the middle of the field, eluding the backtracking defenders with some nice footwork and then picked out the lower left corner from the top of the box.

"It is something Mario does a lot. You can kind of see it forming and he kinda tucks it onto that right foot and he's scored probably five or six goals that way this year," said Bodnar. "I saw him cutting across and we were kinda jumping off our chairs and it was a good finish for him. It's good, because we were on our heels there in the second half a little bit."

The goal was met immediately with heightened celebration, perhaps fueled from what the players had witnessed from the women's game two hours earlier.

"Spokane really took it to us in the last 20 minutes or so and we countered and got a goal off of it, which is on the road what you are hoping for. And that last three or four minutes was probably the craziest I've seen in doing this for a long time."

The Sasquatch threw everything at Walla Walla in the remaining moments. Less than a minute later a cross from the right side narrowly missed the head of defender Travis Hill (Spokane, WA), who had come forward on the play, and a couple other close calls went for naught in the following minute. Chances continued during stoppage time, including one flurry in which the ball ricocheted off the post and also was headed off the crossbar from inside the six by Smith (Spokane, WA)

"Kind of one of those typical Spokane-Walla Walla matches where both teams go at each other," said CC Spokane men's head coach Kenny Krestian. "Each team had moments in the match where 10-15 minutes they are getting at each other. We go at them and then they go at us. Really it just comes down to one piece of little deep defending where we are just dropping off a guy, dropping off, and he strikes it well. And then I was really pleased with the way the guys responded; we come down and hit the post, hit the crossbar, scramble in front of the [six yard] box - just can't score."