CHENEY - At the beginning of the season Sunnyside High School boys soccer coach Juan Pineda, who was recently named the 2004 Mid-Valley League coach of the year, said his Grizzlies planned on being one of the four best teams in the State.
The Grizzlies are now just two games away from accomplishing their goal.
Sunnyside, which entered the postseason as the No. 3 seed out of the Mid-Valley League, took care of business this past Saturday and in the process captured the program's first-ever Regional championship.
The Grizzlies defeated a determined Cheney team, the top seed out of the Greater Spokane League, 2-1 on Saturday to win the Regional crown and a top seed into the State tournament on Tuesday.
Sunnyside will host Hanford in an opening round 3A State tournament game this Tuesday at 5 p.m. The game will be played at the Grizzly football field. The Grizzlies beat the Falcons last Tuesday 2-1 in a shootout to gain an automatic berth to State. The Grizzlies have owned Hanford the past two seasons, losing only once in five games.
Pineda said Cheney had a very hard style to play against.
"They are a good team," said Pineda.
Pineda said Cheney runs a lot of overlaps. Cheney also has a style that has four defenders, which allowed the Blackhawks to attack or play defense with five players because of the set-up on the field.
"The boys were able to destroy that," said Pineda. "It took a while."
Pineda strung out his forwards, forcing the Blackhawks' defense to come up. With Cheney coming out of its grouping, the Grizzlies were able to attack offensively up the middle, said Pineda.
Sunnyside's first goal came from Junior Garcia, who was recently named the Mid-Valley League player of the year for the second consecutive season. The Grizzly junior scored at the 15th minute off an assist from Joel Jimenez.
The Grizzlies' second goal was off an indirect kick taken by Kyle Van de Graaf at the 26th minute. Van de Graaf flicked the ball to Luis Galvan, who sent a header to Silvano Ramos, who sent the ball past Cheney's goalie in the one-on-one.
Sunnyside shut down Cheney until the 68th minute, when Blackhawk Devin Merrill scored. Pineda said the goal came off a corner kick that curved past keeper Johnny Hernandez.
The Grizzlies outshot Cheney 11 to 8 on goal. Hernandez finished with four saves and Cheney keeper Josh Hooley had seven saves.
Pineda said he was very pleased with his defense in the first half.
"Our defense played really well," said Pineda. "We stopped a lot of their runs."
Pineda credited Cheney with making adjustments in the second half. He said the Blackhawks dominated much of the play in the second half.
"In the final 20 minutes, we had a lot of attacks on our side," said Pineda.
Cheney broke down Sunnyside's defense by using a lot of long kicks to penetrate deep into Grizzly territory.
What worked well for Sunnyside overall, said Pineda, was that the Grizzlies didn't try to reinvent the wheel.
"We were consistent," said Pineda. "Nobody got out of their usual style of play. We were very disciplined about marking other players."
Pineda did say he would liked to have seen his team play stronger in the second half. Pineda said the Grizzlies need to realize teams are going to make runs if they are behind and especially at this level Sunnyside needs to be ready an entire game.
Pineda said it feels good to have won a Regional championship.
"I am really happy," said Pineda. "It is a reflection of every member of our program."
Pineda expects Tuesday's home game with Hanford to be an exciting one. The Falcons this past Saturday ended West Valley-Yakima's string of a decade-plus of appearances in the State tournament with a 2-0 victory to capture the No. 3 seed into State.
"I think they have had a lot of time to make adjustments," said Pineda. "I think it will be another exciting game."