Bombers aiming for return to state tournament

Jack Millikin, Herald staff writerOctober 1, 2012 

It might surprise some people to know that winning the Mid-Columbia Conference title isn’t all that important a goal to the Richland Bombers girls soccer team.

The Bombers certainly will keep working toward another league title after winning the last three in the CBBN 4A, but it won’t be the world’s end if they don’t catch MCC leader Kamiakin (8-1-1 overall, 7-1 MCC).

Much more important to Richland (6-3, 6-2) is making a long, deep run in the 4A state soccer playoffs, something it has not done since 2007, when it made the Final Four and placed fourth.

In fact, a state berth would be the Bombers’ first since then.

“It stinks to lose, but if we can learn from the mistakes, then that can mean something,” Richland coach Sara Elfering said, reflecting on the Bombers’ two early-season losses to Chiawana (7-3, 6-2) and Kamiakin. “(The losses) were tough to swallow, but I told the girls this is happening early in the season, and it’s not like we had to clean out our lockers.”

Elfering is encouraged by her team’s recent play. Richland has won four in a row, including three consecutive shutouts of Kennewick, Walla Walla and Pasco. Most impressive, she said, has been the team’s production on offense, especially after losing junior forward Hayley Deen to a broken finger during a 2-1 win over Hanford in the team’s first conference game.

“At the beginning of the season, our deal was we wanted to generate more offense and get more shots on goal,” Elfering said. “In our last three games, we’ve averaged 16 shots on goal.

“We’ve definitely stressed the team core, and we’ve really been talking about the defense getting into the play if they’re able. The last couple of games Kirsten Calmus and Samantha Heilman have gotten into the scoring column.”

The next two games will be a big test for Richland, which plays host to the Riverhawks tonight at 7 p.m. at Bomber Field and then travels to Lampson Stadium to face the Braves at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“We’re approaching them two different ways. We played Chiawana on their turf, and it wasn’t our best show by any stretch. They played us hard and gritty, and you have to account for Lexi Miller making a play at any time. Their defense stood us up,” Elfering said. “Kamiakin is different, because we saw them at home. We love our home field, but you’ve got to play both ways. They’ve got their speed, and if their goalkeeper (Sydnee Grant) is healthy, we need to make our shots count.”

Hanford soccer: The Falcons (7-3, 5-3) have made some impressive strides recently, winning five of their last six, including a big 1-0 win over Kamiakin last week to hand the Braves their only loss this season.

With Chiawana, Kamiakin and Richland fighting it out over the next five days, a Falcons’ win over Walla Walla today will put them into a tie for third, tying them with the Bombers-Riverhawks’ loser.

In fact, if things fall into place, they could even move into a tie for second by the time the weekend is over and still have time to make a run at another league title.

CWAC: Prosser (3-0 CWAC) and West Valley (2-0) are the only two unbeaten teams left after two weeks of conference play, but that will not be true after the two teams meet at 6 p.m. today in Yakima.

The Mustangs and Rams are familiar rivals, having squared off in the Mid-Valley League before the league dissolved after the spring of 2006.

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