SPOKANE - The East Valley Knights snapped Sunnyside's six game winning streak with a 3-0 win against the Grizzlies in Saturday's Regional championship game, which was also the first round of State.
Sunnyside Coach Juan Pineda said Saturday was a hot day in Spokane, made much more so by the field, which was covered in field turf.
Such an important game already demands an increase in intensity, something the Grizzlies had trouble keeping up on a fast field with State tournament implications.
"We did not show our usual intensity to read and get behind the ball on time," Pineda explained. "We were very tired. This year we made some mistakes and they got us."
Still, the Grizzlies made the best of it.
In the 12th minute of play Sunnyside threatened to score. Tight passing by the Grizzlies enabled Alex Aguilar to be found in front of the goal. After receiving the ball, Aguilar set himself up and took a nice shot on the ground. The Knights' keeper made a good play and blocked the shot from Aguilar, denying a scoring opportunity.
Pineda said East Valley seemed at home on the field turf at Gonzaga Prep High School.
"They could read the rebounds, they could connect with long passes and they could push the ball with better control," he said. "While playing our worse soccer we battled East Valley for control of the game for almost the entire first half."
Pineda said his team's defensive efforts kept the Knights' speedy forwards in check for 37 minutes. Then Sunnyside's Luis Perez got a little too physical with a East Valley player, earning him a yellow card and forcing him to take a break.
"With Perez out, East Valley took advantage of the situation while we were trying to organize ourselves," Pineda said. "They pressured Miguel Lugo from behind and forced him to lose the ball. That gave them a one-on-one against Joaquin Perez and their forward succeeded at placing the ball by the left post."
East Valley would take a 1-0 lead into halftime.
Pineda said he wasn't worried about being behind, telling his team they had faced the same situation against the same team last year and had come out on top.
He said his team came out with more spark to start the second half but five minutes in, the Grizzlies made a costly error.
The Knights had served a cross shot that Perez was able to get his hands on. Accidentally, he dropped the ball right where an East Valley player stood and he stretched out his leg and placed the ball past Perez for an East Valley 2-0 lead.
"We felt that punch and three minutes later we had another simple shot against Joaquin and for some reason he got his hands on it but the ball still bounced in," Pineda recalled. "Joaquin is a terrific keeper, as a matter of fact, one of the best in our region. He has played great soccer for us but sometimes the law of averages comes in and says you are due for a couple of mistakes."
With 30 minutes left, a frustrated Alejandro Zaragoza committed a hard foul and openly questioned the referees' call. This earned him a red card and the Grizzlies would have to play the rest of the game a man down.
Sunnyside then played with three forwards, earning a couple of scoring opportunities but not being able to capitalize on them.
The loss finishes Sunnyside's season with a record of 13-5.
"I can not be down about this loss," Pineda said. "I love my team. We had a great season.
"While many other schools and teams got intimidated with the formation of this league, we beat everybody in the league and finished second. We were the only ones to beat the number one team and we became District champions.
"We learned a lot, we built character and most of all we had a great time together competing in something we love to do. The only sad thing about this is that the more you win, the more you want.
"If you ask me if I want to play East Valley again, I'll tell you yes, and I'll tell you that we'll beat them."