Sunnyside High School boys soccer coach Juan Pineda is a big believer in sticking to the game plan, to keep executing, until things eventually go your way.
Well, things certainly went the Grizzlies' way last night, and in a hurry, as they unloaded a barrage of shots that stunned visiting Selah in the opening round of the Regional tournament. Sunnyside was unrelenting in a second half attack that buried the Vikings, 5-0.
Sunnyside will now travel to face East Valley-Spokane this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Central Valley High School. For those wanting to attend Saturday's game, Central Valley High School in Spokane can be found by taking the Sullivan exit and then turning right, traveling one-and-half miles to reach the high school.
East Valley-Spokane lost 2-1 in a shootout last night to Mid-Valley League champion Hanford.
Saturday's game is a loser-out affair. The winner of Saturday's game will take on the winner of the Prosser/West Valley-Yakima game on Tuesday, May 17. The winner of the May 17 game will then take on the loser of the Hanford/Cheney Regional title game on May 21 for the second and last berth to State.
"I was worried last night," said Pineda. "It took us a while to get going. The team wasn't playing like we usually do."
There were a couple of factors in the Grizzlies' slow start. One, said Pineda, is that he has a young team, many players who haven't seen this level of competition. Pineda said a lot of his players were nervous. Another factor was Selah, one of the toughest defensive teams in the Mid-Valley League, played like it was a championship playoff game-at least in the first half. The Vikings looked a lot better in the first half defensively than they did in last week's regular season game between the two teams. One of the last factors was the Grizzlies seemed content to play the ball in the air in the first half, something Sunnyside doesn't particularly excel at, instead of keeping the ball on the ground.
"It was one of the worst first halves we have ever played," said Pineda. "We were not playing with the intensity of the game until the second half."
Pineda said at the break, which saw both teams in a scoreless tie, he had to remind his team about their abilities and how they needed to stick together.
"I was angry they weren't battling the balls," said Pineda. "I just reminded them of the years of work it took to get here. I had to remind the guys about their abilities and how we are here together."
The word together best describes the Grizzlies' performance in the second half, as they came uncorked on the Vikings. Pineda said his team was able to attack and penetrate the Vikings' defense, forcing them to spread the field.
Senior Rafa Diego started the onslaught for the Grizzlies, scoring off a rebound off an assist from Miguel Galvan at the 58th minute. The Grizzlies' second goal came from Sam Balverde at the 60th minute. Junior Garcia then broke loose on a one-on-one with the Selah keeper off a feed from Jerry Serna at the 61st minute. Freshman sweeper Luis Perez converted a penalty kick at the 69th minute. Garcia hooked up with Balverde at the 71st minute for the Grizzlies' final goal. Garcia also had a goal called back in the second half.
"You work it, you work it and then you finally get them dizzy," said Pineda of the way his team attacked Selah. "You get them dizzy and then you keep coming."
The Grizzlies outshot Selah 15 to 10 on goal. Selah keeper Pat Forbes had 11 saves. In his best game of the year, Sunnyside sophomore keeper Sam Wise played outstanding, making smart decision after smart decision while collecting seven saves.
"It was a great game for Wise," said Pineda. "I am happy to see him play like that."
Although Sunnyside struggled a bit in the game, a lot of credit has to be given to the young defense of the Grizzlies, who really stepped up throughout last night's game.
Pineda is confident in his team's abilities to get past East Valley-Spokane on Saturday.
"I think we are going to go in more confident," said Pineda. "We need to do the things we know how to do, be consistent, and good things will happen."
. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org