KENNEWICK - Playing against the biggest team in the 3A CBBN league and possibly one of the toughest, the Sunnyside High School soccer team needed a win against the Southridge Suns.
"They play very aggressive and with a very high intensity throughout the whole match," Sunnyside Coach Juan Pineda said of the Suns.
That intensity paid off for Southridge yesterday as they beat the Grizzlies 3-1 and put any playoff hopes for Sunnyside in serious doubt. The Grizzlies will now need to win their remaining four games and hope they get some help from other teams.
The match started promising for Sunnyside with a goal in the fourth minute. Sergio Licona passed the ball to Alfredo Gomez when the ball was deflected by a Southridge player. The ball shot out wide, but Gomez tracked it down and blasted a 25-yard shot towards the Suns' goal at a difficult angle to defend.
"It was like a missile that went over the heads of the Southridge players and the keeper," Pineda said.
The Grizzlies continued to control the game for the next 20 minutes, battling in the midfield and keeping Southridge away from the Sunnyside goal. That ended in the 24th minute of play when Zack Russell headed the ball in for Southridge off a corner kick. Pineda said his keeper, Eddie Garcia, got screened by the larger Southridge players and Licona couldn't help out Garcia in time.
With the equalizer in place Southridge went ahead on a fluke when a Southridge defender cleared the ball by kicking it high in the air. Pineda said the wind was at Southridge's back and the ball carried.
Garcia thought the ball was going to go out of bounds but it dropped unexpectedly and bounced over his head into the Sunnyside goal.
The Grizzlies went into halftime down 2-1 but determined to come out and play better. Both teams attacked in the second half and Pineda said there was playoff intensity to the match.
"Teams know we're strong and they all bring their A-game," Pineda said. "Playing these guys neck-to-neck the way we did gives me hope. We're struggling, not scoring a lot of goals."
The Suns picked up a garbage goal in the 60th minute of play when Licona fouled a Southridge player inside the 18-yard box. Keaton Hale took the penalty kick for the Suns to make the score 3-1.
The Grizzlies had eight shots on goal. Southridge recorded 11. Garcia saved six shots for Sunnyside and James Fort had four saves for Southridge.
"We're not getting the wins, but we're playing good soccer," Pineda said. "We got to keep playing the rest of the season with a lot of heart and get some wins.
"I'm very happy with every single one of my players," he added. "They walked out of the stadium with their heads held high."
Sunnyside (4-6, 5-6-1) will next host Kamiakin on Saturday, April 23, at 1 p.m.