|The Bigfoot now hit the road for Quarterfinals Saturday | Photos Gerald Barnhart|
In the second half of the doubleheader the Sasquatch men made an adventure of it against the visiting Titans as they were in control much of the match and held the lead after an early Brian Clark penalty. However, the final five minutes saw Tacoma come within inches of scoring the equalizer three times only to come up short in the 1-0 decision.
NWAACC FIRST ROUND -- Bellevue College 0 :: 3 CC Spokane - WOMEN
It only took two more minutes before she would connect, this time with a header - as she has done so frequently this season - that finished a play in which the build-up was the quality portion of the goal. With the team fully entrenched in the offensive half, left back Kayleen Oliver collected the ball about 40 yards out and slipped it forward into the box to Rashelle Fisher, who in turn quickly popped it out to the left touchline to Rainey Pelzel. With a defender closing in she immediately sent the ball back into the area where Tasha Luu effortlessly flicked a header about eight yards out in the middle of the area into the far side netting.
"We had a game plan; we stuck to it," said CC Spokane women's head coach Jim Martinson. "We wanted to attack em early and get up on them. We heard that you could destroy their confidence if you could up early or get on them early because they have a lot of freshmen on the field, so that was our first goal and they did that. We changed our lineup a little bit, our system, from what we've been playing the last couple of weeks and the girls adjusted well.
"Tasha getting two goals - she just tied the all-time scoring record that Lateashea Currie and Alli Floyd had. I know that was a personal goal for Tasha today besides the win. It was a great all-around win from everybody."
In the 15th minute a dangerous chance for Spokane in the box was quelled only to see the ball roll out of the box to Taylor Strasser, who nearly doubled the lead with a shot from about 25 yards that was slightly deflected, sending it just wide of the left post.
Three minutes later the Bulldogs had their best look of the half, and arguably the game, when a free kick about 30 yards out by Morgan McCarty created some anxiety in the box, but the eventual shot from out of the scramble popped up over the bar and dropped into the roof of the goal.
The Bigfoot answered with another quality chance themselves within a minute off a throw deep in the right offensive third that led to a cross into the six where Fisher rose for a header about eight yards out that went just wide left of the goal.
Fisher's chance was one of many close calls on the day for the Bigfoot who were continually peppering the goal either from shots outside the area or threatening from the flanks, particularly on the right side where Pelzel was left virtually all alone for long stretches of time.
"I don't know. We told Rainey and Kat Tsoukalas to stay high - even in the system we were playing we told them to stay high - and almost look like they were forwards. Bellevue - I don't know - they had five in the back but no one out there with Rainey and she had her way with them. For sure [she] was a big impact player on the day, which was nice considering a week ago we didn't think she would be playing."
In the 25th minute, she delivered the blow that psychologically seemed to cement the victory for Spokane. The ball came out of the area right to Pelzel, who collected it and, with absolutely no imminent pressure, launched a 33-yard effort that found the upper right corner of the goal to push the lead to two.
Bellevue came out in the second half a bit more organized and limited the opportunities for Sasquatch, who also seemed a bit complacent with the two-goal margin. Spokane, though, would nearly push it to three in the 62nd minute when Tsoukalas drove into the deep right side and delivered a cross into the six where Fisher again rose well into the air for a header only to see it go over the goal.
"Rashelle is a very dynamic player. For as little as she is, she fast, she's crafty and she gets up and battles in the air," Martinson said in response to how surprising her vertical is. "She's been all-around great for us. Bellevue was one of her other choices for her this year so they were disappointed they didn't get her, and we are glad we have her - for sure."
Looking to put the match away the Bigfoot began to mount continued pressure once again in the final quarter-hour of the contest. Right back Missy Atabelo, who had been shutting down the Bulldogs all contest and creating turnovers, began to play a greater role in the attack and in the 79th minute she nearly added the third tally when she took the ball and drove about 10 yards up field before letting loose from just outside the area with an arcing shot that caromed off the crossbar as it swerved toward the left side of the goal.
Four minutes later, with a substitute awaiting her on the sideline to protect her from picking up a second yellow in a game in hand, Atabelo came up key again in the attack, taking the ball deep up the right side and delivering a cross into the area that was redirected by Kat Tsoukalas and came to Luu, who was crashing into the area in front of the left post unmarked. Luu slammed it home from about 10 yards and moments later Atabelo exited, emphatically remarking "now I can come out," obviously satisfied that she had finally left her mark offensively after the previous denial from the woodwork.
"Missy is one that has been coming off the bench for us a lot of the year and really has worked her way into a starting position. And she just does so much; defensively, she's just tough. We've got her in there because she will come forward and that's a piece we've been missing is being able to attack out of the back like that. She's done a great job with that, too."
The victory sends the Bigfoot back to the NWAACC Quarterfinals, where they began their postseason a year ago as the division champions. This time as a second seed they will travel to face Clackamas, the champions of the South Division with a 12-2-2 record in league play and 12-4-2 mark overall.
"Clack is going to be tough; they always are. They will be really defensive; they are great defensively and they have a great goalkeeper so it is a matter of breaking them down. We played them on opening day this year and came from behind to beat them but that means nothing on opening day so that's gonna be a great battle, especially down there. It's a 7:00 pm game, and we haven't played a night game all year so we got to find a way to adjust in two days."
In the opening game at the Starfire Friendlies Clackamas Community College took the initial lead just before the break when Mecca Williams connected with Hope Butler in the 45th minute. It took very little time for Spokane to answer in the second half with Atabelo finding Luu just two minutes in. Luu then turned provider, setting up Pelzel at the hour mark for what held as the winner.
The two sides also met in the NWAACC Championships last year at Starfire. The Bigfoot advanced in the semifinal contest with a 1-0 victory courtesy of a great defensive play in the offensive third by Luu that set up Lateashea Currie for the winner on a break with seconds left in the 90th minute. The Cougars went into the match having allowed just seven goals last season. This time, with six sophomores on the 17-player squad, they come in with 12 goals allowed.
ELSEWHERE -- Columbia Basin College 2 :: 1 Highline CC
The Hawks, a distant third in the East at 7-7-2, proved that the division was more than two teams deep with a surprising victory on the road at Starfire with a comeback win over the Thunderbirds, who finished second at 11-3-2 in the West behind defending NWAACC champion Peninsula (12-0-0). The Thunderbirds took the initial lead in the 16th minute, but the Hawks found two goals in a nine-minute span to reverse the result late in the contest. Taylor Schutzenhofer tied things up in the 71st minute and Ruby Herrera provided the winner in the 79th, but it may have been Dakota Wickard's 14 saves on the night that made the difference for CBC, who were a feisty opponent for both Spokane and Walla Walla late in the season thanks to their keeper.
Columbia Basin advances to face Edmonds, who won the North with a 12-1-3 record, on Saturday. Edmonds blanked the Hawks 3-0 in their previous meeting this year - the North was schedule pairing with the East this season - with a pair of goals in the first half set up by Hailey Foley, who found Annelise Coxeff in the 26th and Cortney Fredriksen in the 45th. Oliva Baker sealed things with six minutes remaining in the contest in which CBC also lost Schutzenhofer to a red card. The Tritons were 4-1-1 against the East, playing to a scoreless draw against visiting Spokane the day before falling at home, 6-0, to Walla Walla. They outscored Wenatchee Valley, Treasure Valley and Yakima Valley a combined 17-3 in the other three contests with the Chukars registering the only goals in a 7-3 defeat.
East champion Walla Walla will play host Saturday to Everett, who finished third in the North at 8-5-3 but advanced to the Quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory at 11-4-1 Lane on a 79th minute goal from Mikayla Whitton. The Warriors won their previous meeting this year with Alli Madril setting up both Julie Belden goals as they tallied in the 10th and 20th minutes of the match. The result was the only loss Everett suffered in the crossover play between the paired divisions with Spokane dinging them for a further two points in a scoreless draw as they went 4-1-1 against the East.
NWAACC FIRST ROUND -- Tacoma CC 0 :: 1 CC Spokane - MEN
Spokane had the better of play in a game that a bit more even than the preceding women's contest, and a quarter-hour in striker Brian Clark was taken down in the box. The Englishman would step to the spot moments later and convert the penalty for what would hold as the winner.
The Bigfoot would have several close chances with shots from distance and Tacoma created some anxious moments at the other end, but Spokane goalkeeper Curtis Hill either had it covered or the back line would recover well to address the threat.
"I felt… in the first half I thought we were definitely the better side; probably up until 20 minutes to go in the match when they pushed numbers forward and we really didn't handle it well," said Bigfoot men's coach Kenny Krestian. "The long distance shot off the post and the header off the crossbar; we were lucky to get out of there with the win."
Things began to get a little testy in the second half, perhaps sparking when the visitors became incensed with the officials eight minutes in. A shot from distance about 35 yards out was headed over Hill, who was well out of goal. The keeper, however, leapt at the last second with his hands outstretched to knock it down, eliciting shouts for a handball outside of the box as he near the edge of the area at the time.
The discord with the officials transitioned to the Spokane back line as things wore on and, perhaps, it inspired some of their effort put forth in the latter stages on a very frigid evening. With five minutes left, the Titans had two near-goals on an unbelievable sequence. A shot from just inside the right side of the box was brilliantly saved by Hill, who as he was moving toward that side made a great reaction save by flashing his trailing hand out fully the opposite way to deny a certain goal to the far side. The ball would be partially cleared to a Titan player, who launched a 23-yard effort from the left side that slammed off the woodwork.
"He's been big for us in goal all year and he's shown why we can win matches 1-0, because he'll keep us in it," Krestian said of Hill's game-saving stop in the final minutes.
Two minutes later Spokane nearly locked up the victory when Clark was played in behind the defense and got to the ball just before the keeper, but it deflected just wide from about 15 yards.
In the 89th minute Tacoma again put a scare into the Sasquatch when a corner from the right side found James Glavin, but his header from about eight yards out smacked off the crossbar to deny the Titans yet again.
In other games of note for Clark, the Penguins defeated East champion Walla Walla in the season opener and won handily against Tacoma, 6-1. Spokane's three goals in their draw was the most the Penguins defense allowed in any game this season, including their lone defeat - 2-0 to Peninsula - as they gave up the third fewest in the league (13). The Warriors were the only other teams to score twice as they fell 3-2 in their meeting.
"Clark is a very good team, especially in the attack - very strong going forward. I think, if we can attack better, we'll have some opportunities at em. It's always going to be a tight game, but I think it's going to be a one-goal game again on Saturday.
ELSEWHERE -- Columbia Basin College 0 :: 2 Highline CC
The Hawks gave up two early goals and were unable to recover from the deficit on the road. Valentyn Shymko scored two minutes in on a ball from Cole Madden and then added a second 15 minutes later. Highline moves on to play North champion Skagit Valley.
East champion Walla Walla will play host Saturday to Whatcom College, which finished third in the North with a 4-7-2 record (5-8-3 overall) and advanced to the Quarterfinals with an semi-upset win over Chemeketa (5-7-1 / 8-9-4) via penalties (4-3) after a scoreless draw. Whatcom goalkeeper Andrew Wildfong made three saves during the contest for the shutout performance. As a member of the north, the Orcas are no stranger to the East thanks to the cross-over schedule. In their previous meeting Walla Walla were 3-2 victors thanks to a two-goal first half. Austin Herrick set up Jessie Garcia 34 minutes in and Max Smith doubled the lead two minutes later. Davis Strawn cut the deficit in the 76th minute on a ball from Ryo Matsubara, but Smith fired right back a minute later to restore the two-goal cushion thanks to service from Garcia. Matsubara set up another tally, but Codi Woodcock's 89th minute strike was all the hosts could find in the rally attempt. The Orcas found little success against the East, falling 1-0 at Spokane and playing to draws versus Columbia Basin (2-2) and Treasure Valley (0-0) with their only victory coming at Wenatchee Valley, 3-0.