On a beautiful, crisp Cinco de Mayo morning, the Sunnyside High School soccer team advanced to the second round of Regional playoff action with a 3-1 win over the Greater Spokane League's Mt. Spokane last Saturday.
Sunnyside (12-4) won its fifth straight game and will meet league rival Eastmont Wednesday, May 9, for a 6 p.m. game at the Apple Bowl in Wenatchee.
The Grizzlies were the only team to serve Eastmont the taste of defeat this season with a shootout win April 28.
The Mt. Spokane Wildcats (2-11) tried to put up a fight against the Grizzlies but Sunnyside's defensive play denied them scoring opportunities time and time again.
"They were very sticky," Sunnyside Coach Juan Pineda said of the Wildcats. "When we got the ball they were on us. They were marking really tight, we couldn't get as open as we usually do. They have a very solid defense, it wasn't easy to score."
Pineda said Mt. Spokane's record was misleading, since the Wildcats mostly play against 4A schools.
"I knew we had to come out strong in the beginning," he added.
Freddy Sanchez put Sunnyside on the scoreboard in the 12th minute of play when he scored on a pass from Brian Galvan.
Galvan and Alex Aguilar worked the ball up the field with good passing. Close to the goal, Galvan kicked a short diagonal pass to Sanchez, who only had to do a one-time touch on the ball and it went into the net.
Just 14 minutes later, Sunnyside's Alex Zaragoza gave the Grizzlies a 2-0 lead with an unassisted goal.
"That play came from pressing them," Pineda said.
The Grizzlies were moving the ball in Mt. Spokane territory when a Wildcat defender took Aguilar down. He took a free kick from outside the 20-yard line but a Mt. Spokane player blocked the kick. Zaragoza collected the rebound, then drilled a power shot past the keeper for the two score lead.
At halftime, Pineda wasn't happy with just a 2-0 lead.
"I told them they weren't playing their usual game," he explained. "They were too hesitant, too passive. We needed to get back to our short passing game. I demanded of them that they score a goal in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
The Grizzlies answered their coach's call six minutes into the second half.
Once again, Sunnyside was pressing the ball against Mt. Spokane. Down by the goal, a Wildcat player tried to clear the ball away but didn't get enough foot on the ball as it soared into the air. Sunnyside's Jesus Solis came under the ball and headed it over the keeper, who had come charging in to grab it. As the ball went over the keeper's head, Aguilar ran to the ball and headed it in for a 3-0 lead.
The Wildcats picked up a garbage goal late in the game during stoppage time. A Mt. Spokane player threw the ball in from the right side of the field to the 18-yard line in front of Sunnyside's keeper, Joaquin Perez. He charged to get the ball but got caught in traffic. As the ball was kicked into the air, Mt. Spokane's Christopher Waugh headed the ball in to an empty goal for a Wildcat score.
"Mt. Spokane came hard against us," Pineda said. "With their speed they were always coming against us. Our defensive unit was awesome and played a very important role for us in this win."
He singled out Luis Perez, Zaragoza, Daniel Alvarez, Miguel Lugo, Rogelio Chavez and Jordan Esqueda as key players in the defensive game.
"They were very strong for us today," he added. "They were pressured a lot."
Offensively, Pineda singled out Sanchez.
"He was one of the few who showed full intensity throughout the game offensively," Pineda said.
Sunnyside's keeper, Joaquin Perez, had six saves during the game.
"We can't go out like we did today or we won't stand a chance against Eastmont," Pineda predicted. "We must pick up our intensity and be consistent with our linking passes.
"They're (Eastmont) a very disciplined, organized and strong team but we beat them," he continued. "In these types of games there is no advantage. It's whoever comes out strong will be the team with the most chances of winning. It's whoever takes advantage of their opportunities."