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Grizzlies learn a lesson about being champions

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Sunnyside's Diego Mendoza (L) and Joel Jimenez try to put pressure on a West Valley player in yesterday's Mid-Valley League soccer match.

YAKIMA - The West Valley and Sunnyside high school boys soccer teams opened a new chapter in their bubbling rivalry last night. The two teams picked right up where they off last year with another classic for the books.

If last night's latest chapter would have a title, it would most likely be "What If?"

The biggest lesson the Grizzlies can take from last night's 4-3 loss is that if you have one of the most elite boys soccer programs in the western United States on the ropes, you better be able to deliver the knockout blow.

In a game where Sunnyside outplayed the Rams for the most part, the Grizzlies could never deliver that final knockout punch-and they had plenty of opportunities.

While West Valley's four goals were legitimate tallies, anyone who saw the final outcome of the game was left with a big "What If?"

The play in question that left a cloud over the outcome happened with about two minutes left. Sunnyside's Kyle Van de Graaf was inside the West Valley goalie's area as the Grizzlies were threatening on offense. Van de Graaf was the victim of what to the common observer was an obvious foul. The side linesman called for the penalty kick and with West Valley preparing to defend the shot, the center official went over to the side linesman and came back and reversed the call.

But in all honestly, the game should have never come down to an obvious missed call by the official. The Grizzlies simply didn't get the job done against West Valley.

"It was a good game," said Sunnyside Coach Juan Pineda. "When we have our moments, we have to seize the moment. We have to be aggressive to the ball."

Pineda said he felt his team very much took itself out of the game.

The Grizzlies missed several opportunities to score. One came in the first half when Sunnyside missed a penalty kick. In the second half, the Grizzlies missed three goals that were basically wide open.

A lot of credit has to be given to West Valley goalie Corey Wehr, who finished with eight saves.

"We still face the mental aspect," said Pineda. "I think our kids get too wired and try to do too much against West Valley."

Pineda said his team still faces many of the same problems it had last year when playing West Valley, as far as overcoming the mental parts of being able to beat a team rich in tradition.

Yesterday's game was very much about momentum. Both West Valley and Sunnyside took runs at one another throughout the game.

"We played well," said Pineda. "I though there were times when they didn't know how to move the ball against us."

The Grizzlies got on the board first last night when sophomore midfielder Silvano Ramos scored off a rebound from a corner kick at the fourth minute. West Valley rallied back to score on a penalty kick by Jeremy Vargas at the 16th minute. West Valley then scored off a penalty kick by Geoff Goodwill at the 20th minute. The Grizzlies rallied to tie the game when Ramos scored his second goal at the 25th minute with Luis Galvan receiving the assist.

The Grizzlies came storming out in the second half and the reigning Mid-Valley League player of the year Junior Garcia scored from an assist by Galvan at the 46th minute. The Grizzlies would go on to control much of the second half until about midway through.

"I thought the last 20 minutes we struggled," said Pineda.

The Rams made their usual run, which the Grizzlies had a hard time adjusting against. At the 57th minute, West Valley was handed a freebie by Sunnyside when the Grizzlies failed to clear a ball, which ended up going backwards in the strong wind over the head of goalie Johnny Hernandez. The game-winning goal came off another defensive miscue by Sunnyside when Tim Bowman scored off another uncleared ball at the 68th minute.

Sunnyside outshot West Valley 12 to 8 on goal. Hernandez finished with four saves.

Pineda said the Grizzlies didn't play their style of game and let West Valley take over the tempo.

"We had really good minutes when we stuck to our strategy," said Pineda. "West Valley applied its formal strategy more than we did ours. They stuck to their strategy."

Pineda credits West Valley with sticking to its way of playing even when things weren't going its way. Pineda said the biggest struggle his team has to overcome is knowing it is just as good as West Valley.

Sunnyside (2-1, 4-1) has another tough game this Thursday night against Grandview.

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