Even on a sun-baked turf, it took Shadle Park 20 minutes to warm to the task Tuesday night.
But once they did, the Highlanders never looked back in a 2-0 win over Sunnyside in a 3A Regional soccer match at Spokane Falls Community College.
“They outworked us after a three-hour bus ride and at first I wasn’t too happy with the boys,” said Shadle coach Donavon Hodgson, whose club hadn’t played a match in six days since winning District.
Eighth-seeded Sunnyside had several good chances early, the best one snuffed out when Shadle goalkeeper Kenji Booey came off his line to block a sure goal in the 10th minute.
Ten minutes later, against the run of play, junior forward Peter Sokolis scored to give the Highlanders a 1-0 lead. More importantly, Shadle wrested the momentum en route to earning a spot in Thursday’s Regional title match against Kennewick.
The winner of that match, scheduled for Albi Stadium, will qualify directly to state, while the loser will face either University or Hanford on Saturday for the second berth at state. In the second game of Tuesday’s double-header, University beat Kamiakin 3-2 to advance to a loser-out match at home against Hanford.
“I wasn’t that excited about the goal,” said Sokolis, who tool a corner from Sean Malone and chested it home. “I thought it was a hand ball, but the ref said it was a goal.
“We’ll take it.”
More importantly, the Highlanders took control. Four minutes before halftime, Sokolis led a counterattack, sending a cross into the Grizzly goalmouth that just eluded two Shadle players. In the 53rd minute, Chris Pieroni narrowly missed a header.
Momentum turned for good two minutes later, when Sunnyside’s Oswaldo Perez was sent off to elbowing a Highlander in the face.
“We kept our heads and our composure, and I’m very proud of the players,” Hodgson said.
Up a man and a goal, the Highlanders dominated the rest of the way, clinching the match on Malone’s goal in the 65th minute.
“That really swung the momentum,” Hodgson said. “After that goal they (Sunnyside) kind of went downhill.”
In other 3A matches, Mt. Spokane and North Central were eliminated. The Wildcats fell 6-2 at Hanford, while North Central lost 2-0 at Kennewick.
University 3, Kamiakin 2: The Titans won their sixth straight match in a see-saw affair to stay in the hunt for a state berth.
Marcelo Morales opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, dribbling through traffic to give the Titans a 1-0 lead that lasted until Kamiakin equalized 10 minutes into the second half.
U-Hi responded within 30 seconds on a goal by Brandon Burk to make it 2-1. Trevor Martin put the Titans ahead 3-1 on a hard shot that the Kamiakin keeper couldn’t handle, but the Braves answered a minute later to cut the lead to 3-2.
4A: Host and top seed Richland got two first-half goals from Jonathan Larsen to defeat Ferris 2-1 and advance to next week’s state tournament.
The second-seeded Saxons got a goal from Conor Ourada in the 74th minute, but fell short and will host Walla Walla in a loser-out, winner-to-state match on Saturday.
The time and site of that match will be announced today.
Ferris is the lone Greater Spokane League team still alive in the postseason after Lewis & Clark fell 2-1 at Walla Walla.
The Tigers fell behind 2-0 midway through the first half, but Tyrus LaRocca scored on a breakaway to cut the lead in half.
LC had several opportunities in the second half but couldn’t capitalize.
2A: Ian Schmandel scored scored three goals to lead Cheney to a 4-1 over East Valley advance to within a game of returing to the state tournament.
On Saturday, the Blackhawks will host a Regional crossover game against a team from District 5 or 6. East Valley will go on the road Saturday.
The winners of Saturday’s matches will advance to the state playoffs, which begin on Tuesday.
With the Blackhawks leading 2-1, Schmandel scored twice in the second half to put the match away.
Micah Weller scored the other goal for Cheney. Hartvig Bondo scored for East Valley.