Strange as it sounded at halftime, slowing down was the fastest route to state Saturday afternoon for the Central Valley boys soccer team.
After falling behind early, the Bears scored twice in the second half to defeat Chiawana of Pasco 2-1 in a 4A Regional match that sends CV to the state playoffs for the first time in five years.
“It’s a great day,” said senior forward Isaiah Van Voorhuis. “We’re going to state and tonight’s the prom. It’s just awesome.”
As Voorhuis and the rest of Bears headed off to exchange cleats for dress shoes, the Chiawana bus pulled out of the parking lot even as the P.A. announcer gave the news that the Bears’ next opponent will have to travel even farther.
That will be Emerald Ridge of Puyallup, which faces the Bears on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Central Valley. Emerald Ridge (14-2-2) upset Stadium of Tacoma earlier Saturday to earn the school’s first trip to state – and a six-hour bus ride to Spokane Valley.
The Bears, 11-3 and winners of four straight, earned that precious home-field advantage by capturing District earlier this week; they earned another home date by changing the game plan at halftime against Chiawana.
Facing a quicker opponent and trailing 1-0 at intermission, CV began to push the ball down the wings and make the Riverhawks give chase.
“We needed to get the ball wide,” said coach Andres Monrroy. “This is a really good team, they’re faster than us, so we talked about adapting.
“A smart team is a team that adapts.”
Central Valley got the equalizer just 6 minutes into the second half when Robert Kissinger-Smith saw teammate Robert Alcala “out of the side of my head” and froze the Chiawana defenders with a perfectly time backheel.
Alcala dribbled down the left and shot toward goal and a waiting Alex Renz, who scored.
“I figured I had the shot,” said Alcala, “but I saw Alex and I knew he’d finish it if I missed and he did.”
Revitalized, the Bears began to dominate in midfield, and CV keeper Alex Joseph faced few threats, facing only seven shots on goal the whole match.
“We never played a team this fast so we had to slow it down,” Alcala said.
Finally, with 11 minutes left, Renz repaid his teammate with a long throw from the right sideline that Alcala headed home for the eventual game-winner.
“It was a beautiful goal,” said Monrroy, who is taking the Bears to state for the first time since he took over the program five years ago.
Moreover, the Bears are the only team from the Greater Spokane League still alive in the 4A playoffs, as Mead and Lewis and Clark both suffered 2-0 defeats in Yakima.
In the first half, which featured more offsides whistles than shots, Chiawana had several dangerous chances, forcing Yoseph to make back-to-back saves in the 21st minute.
Three minutes later, Yoseph blocked a strong shot from the top of the box, but the rebound went to Rene Solorio, who blasted a diagonal shot into the left side of the net.
The Riverhawks had two more dangerous chances before the Bears got to intermission – and a change of pace.
Davis 2, Mead 0: Williams Pineda scored two second-half goals and the Pirates topped the Panthers in Yakima.
Davis earned a spot in the state tournament while Mead saw its season come to a close.
Eisenhower 2, Lewis and Clark 0: Christian Tejeda scored two goals in the first half and the Cadets held on to beat the visiting Tigers.
The loss ended Lewis and Clark’s season.