PREP SOCCER: Hanford, Kennewick favored in competitive MCC

By Jack Millikin, Herald staff writerMarch 21, 2014 

One of the most unforgettable games of the 2013 boys soccer season came in late May, when Hanford and Kennewick — two Mid-Columbia Conference teams — met in the Class 3A state quarterfinals for the right to head to the Final Four in Puyallup.

It had all the earmarks of a classic, including lots of scrappy play, a late game-tying goal, a scoreless overtime period and a heroic performance by Hanford goalkeeper Jacob Thiel, during which he stopped every one of the Lions kicks in the Falcons’ shootout win.

Hanford coach Mike Pardini knows his team won’t be able to surprise anyone this year after a fourth-place finish at state.

“We know things are going to be a little different this year. We’re not going to sneak up on teams,” he said.

The good news is most of the big-time players who made that game memorable will be back in 2014. Kennewick, which earned its first league championship since 1989 last year, returns eight starters, and Hanford will bring back nine.

“If you pencil in a result, you do that at your own peril,” Lions coach Brian Gochoel said. “You just have to keep getting better.”

Those two teams aren’t the only ones who are expected to fare well in the MCC.

Here are a few reasons why this could be another great year for boys soccer in the Mid-Columbia.

1) Scoring punch — The MCC alone returns 11 of the top 14 goal scorers in the league. Scoring champ Austin Herrick graduated at Richland, but Mario Zarate of Hanford (9 goals), Ramiro Chavez of Kennewick (8 goals), Ali Kamara of Richland (6 goals), Will Bishop of Hanford (6 goals) and Emilio Meraz-Rodriguez of Pasco (5 goals) will all return to haunt opposing back thirds.

There won’t be a shortage of playmakers, either, with the return of Jose Anguiano of Kamiakin (5 assists), Bishop (5 assists) and Jacob Bogen of Hanford (5 assists).

2) Goalkeeping:Offense is only one phase of the game. Defense can also be a big part of a team’s success.

A strong back line is critical, but a goalkeeper who can step up when the game is on the line is invaluable.

Six of the MCC’s top seven goalkeepers will return this season, inlcluding all three goalies named to the MCC all-league team — Henry Hernandez of Kennewick (first team), Damian Ruiz of Richland (second team) and Thiel, who was honorable mention.

3) Coaching:A good coach will always tell you that it’s the players on the field who get the result.

True enough.

However, it takes a good coach to prepare players to step up when the time comes, and the Mid-Columbia certainly has no shortage of those.

Richland’s Octavio Dovalle and Hanford’s Mike Pardini are the only two that have earned state titles, but between Gochoel, Mike Washington at Walla Walla, Matt Potter at Pasco and Rich Zoller at Chiawana, there could be a few more Mid-Columbia teams in the championship discussion in the next few seasons. At Kamiakin, Jeff Bennett showed a strong ability to motivate his team and put them in position for post-season upsets over the last few years.

4) Club presence: Most successful teams at the 3A-4A level have a strong club presence. Virtually all of Hanford’s starters had considerable club soccer experience, so it’s no surpise they were able to rise to the occasion late last season after finishing 9-5 in the MCC.

Most of them had been in that position before.

Kamara, Richland’s gifted forward, is one of the top club players in the area and will be counted on heavily to step up with the graduation of Herrick and Jonathan Larsen.

Returning all-league players


GK: Henry Hernandez, sr., Kennewick. Defense: Kelly Smith, sr., Hanford; Miguel Chavez, sr., Pasco. Midfield: Mario Zarate, sr., Hanford; Alvaro Licea, sr., Kennewick. Forwards: Will Bishop, sr., Hanford; Ramiro Chavez, sr., Kennewick; Emilio Meraz-Rodriguez, jr., Pasco.
GK: Damian Ruiz, sr., Richland. Midfield: Jose Anguiano, sr., Kamiakin; Fransisco Sanchez, sr., Walla Walla; Joseph Ghirardo, sr., Hanford; Luis Solano, sr., Southridge. Forward: Ty Wallin, jr., Kamiakin.
GK: Jacob Thiel, sr., Hanford. Defense: Marcos Borja, sr., Kennewick; Nick Carlson, sr., Hanford. Midfield: Jacob Bogen, sr., Hanford. Forward: Tony Nava, jr., Southridge; Hector Magana, soph., Pasco.

GK — Oliver Sanchez, sr., Toppenish. D — Brady Bendall, sr., West Valley. F — Ismael Montes, sr., Grandview; Jonathan Lopez, jr., Toppenish; Johnny Sanchez, sr., Ellensburg.
MF — Eliseo Alcala, sr., Toppenish; Jason Rodriguez, sr., Othello. F — Servando Fuentes, sr., Toppenish; Jacob Quiroz, jr., Othello; Jordan Cluff, jr., West Valley; Khristian Herrera, jr., Othello.
D — Kenton Cleveringa, jr., Ephrata; . MF — Leo Munguia, sr., Ellensburg; Brenan Ball, sr., Selah.

GK — Armando Lopez, sr., Highland; Alan Caro, sr., Wahluke. D — Hector Franco, sr., Granger; Kasey Barber, soph., Naches Valley.
GK — Osualdo Alba, sr., Warden. D — Tomas Alvarez, sr., Highland. MF — Luis Garcia, sr., Royal. F — Duvan Vaca, soph., Highland.
GK — Adsel Plaza, jr., Connell. D — Christian Ramos, sr., Connell. MF — Francisco Corona, sr., Connell; Ramon Bravo, sr., Wahluke.

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