YAKIMA - The Sunnyside Grizzly boys soccer team was six minutes away from snapping a three-game losing streak before falling at West Valley this past Saturday.
Sunnyside led 2-1 with six minutes left in regulation, when keeper Ediberto Garcia sustained a hand injury and had to leave the match. The Grizzlies had to use one of their other players as a last-minute replacement and in the transition the host Rams scored the equalizer.
The score remained 2-2 through the end of regulation and through two scoreless overtimes. That set up the shootout, which West Valley won 3-1 after Sunnyside missed its first three kick attempts.
The shootout misfires, one-on-one against the keeper, were consistent with Sunnyside's struggles throughout the match in taking advantage of its opportunities.
The Grizzlies had 15 shots on goal for the match compared to just six for the Rams.
"Our accuracy was off," said Sunnyside Coach Juan Pineda. "When you have opportunities and don't capitalize you don't deserve to win."
The loss spoiled a strong start for Sunnyside, sparked by freshman Isaac Meza's goal just five minutes into his first varsity match.
"He scored a beautiful goal," Pineda said of the score by Meza, who just last week was brought up from the junior varsity. "We pressured West Valley from the first whistle. When they tried to clear the ball out, Isaac volleyed it with a lot of power."
West Valley finally responded in the 25th minute when the Rams' Junior Ayala gathered in a crossing shot and scored to tie the match.
Sunnyside answered just seven minutes later when Humberto Bermudez sent a curving cross over the West Valley defensive line and Sunnyside teammate Sergio Licona brought it in to score the goal.
The score was 2-1 for Sunnyside at the half, and the Grizzlies had numerous opportunities in the second half to open up some breathing room.
Pineda said his team had at least three wide open, one-on-one opportunities against the West Valley keeper in the second half that went for naught.
The Grizzlies even had a chance inside the final six minutes after West Valley tied the score, but weren't able to connect.
"We had plenty of chances," Pineda said. "We weren't placing the ball well. We were so hungry that we forgot to play straightforward."
Despite four losses in a row, the last two in a shootout, Sunnyside (1-4, 3-4) has plenty to be optimistic about, says Pineda.
"Of course there are high expectations for Sunnyside, we've won league and district titles for the last five years," he said. "But the kids are fine. The best for us is still to come."
Pineda says his young team has a good attitude and a good work ethic. The lapses in connecting on goal opportunities, he said, will be corrected with practice and repetition.
With always tough Pasco coming to town tomorrow, Tuesday, Sunnyside has another reason to be optimistic as all-league keeper Joaquin Perez will be eligible to compete.
"He's back, that's exciting for the team," Pineda said.