The Columbia Basin College men’s soccer team played smart, hard soccer Saturday afternoon in Pasco.
They had several opportunities to score and stood toe-to-toe with Walla Walla Community College, a team that won the last two NWAACC East titles and could capture a third with a win Wednesday.
That’s what made Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Walla Walla even tougher to swallow, especially after the Hawks played the Warriors to a scoreless draw in Walla Walla earlier this month.
A couple of slip-ups is all it takes to undo 88 minutes worth of good in the world of NWAACC soccer.
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“I actually thought we played well in both halves. A couple of times we just fell asleep, and they broke on us,” Hawks coach Corey Chandler said of Warriors’ two first-half goals.
Michael Mollay took a pass up the right wing from Jhony Mendoza at the 22-minute mark, dribbled past the top of the 18-yard box and fired a shot from 12 yards out that beat Hawks goalkeeper Antonio Gonzalez to the upper right corner for a 1-0 lead.
“CBC came out with a lot of emotion in the first 10-15 minutes, and we countered,” Warriors coach Chad Bodnar said. “It made us more comfortable knowing we were playing from ahead and that we could sit in, counter and hold possession.”
Walla Walla (11-1-2 overall, 8-0-2 NWAACC East) picked up its second goal 21 minutes later, when Mario Guizar, a Kamiakin graduate, made a run from midfield and slipped between two central defenders to set up a shot on goal. Guizar beat Gonzalez to the right side for his 15th goal of the season, putting him in second place among NWAACC scoring leaders.
“We were down 1-0, and our guys were anxious to score. They saw we were taking it to them a little bit, but our midfielders started pushing up a little too high. They just countered on us, because our midfield was out of position,” Chandler said.
Jesse Esquivel, a sophomore forward for CBC (3-8-4, 2-4-4), stepped off the field at the half and tried to fire up his team. The scrappy West Valley (Yakima) High School graduate stood in front of the Hawks bench, an exasperated mix of sweat and fury.
“What happened?! Why did our bench stop talking? We’re down 2-0. Are we going to stop fighting?” Esquivel said during the break.
His teammates had no intention of giving up, putting together several scoring chances in the second half, doing everything short of finishing.
Chandler nor Esquivel could find fault in the Hawks’ effort.
“I’m confident in this team. We drew against them, and they were in the (NWAACC) finals last year. It proved we can compete with any team,” Esquivel said after the game. “We just have to concentrate for a full 90 minutes, because two little mistakes can kill a game for you.”
The game was quite physical and filled with minor shoving matches that could have easily turned into something more serious. But the presence of center referree Mikhail Alnajaar and some cooler heads on both teams prevented any escalation.
“Earlier in the year, we got a couple reds in a match. We stooped down to another team’s level for a few minutes, and it cost us,” Chandler said. “Walla Walla does a great job grinding at you, but I was proud of our guys — aside from one yellow card — for keeping their heads.
“Down 2-0, it can be pretty easy to go the other way and start wanting to be chippy and dangerous. I’m proud of our guys for playing through it and not getting into physical confrontations.”
With three games remaining on each team’s schedule, Walla Walla can clinch their third consecutive East Division title with a win over Treasure Valley on Wednesday. That would also help CBC, which is tied with Chukars for third place with 10 points apiece.
The Hawks will host Wenatchee Valley on Thursday at 2:15 p.m.
Scoring—1, WW, Michael Mollay (Jhony Mendoza), 21:30; 2, WW, Mario Guizar, 42:20. Shots—WW 13, CBC 10. Saves—WW, Derek Carver 1. CBC, Antonio Gonzalez 2.