Though the Pasco High School boys soccer team is the class of the Mid-Columbia Conference for the third consecutive season, Walla Walla has the gritty look of an underdog squad ready to make a run.
One year ago Wednesday, the Blue Devils finished off an 0-15 season with a loss to Richland in the first round of the district playoffs. This season’s team, under first-year coach Jose Cedeno, clinched the MCC’s No. 2 Class 4A seed — and an 8-7 overall record — with a road shootout win over Kennewick (12-4, 10-4) in Saturday’s regular season finale.
Walla Walla hosts GSL No. 3 seed Lewis and Clark (12-3, 7-2) at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the first round of the MCC-GSL subregionals, potentially three wins away from the first state tournament appearance in school history.
“We like focusing on the team success, and not just the player,” said Cedeno, who will go into his second season of coaching the Whitman College men’s soccer team in the fall. “That’s kind of been the story for the whole season, (and) as a program is something that it needed. The assistant coach, Ian Rees, and myself came in with a different mentality that we’ll sort of be injecting into the players minds, and I think it’s slowly shifting from what it used to be, and we’re happy to see that.”
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Before taking the job at Whitman and now Wa-Hi, Cedeno headed the Hunter College (N.Y.) men’s program from 2005-11, and served as the director of coaching and player development for the Belmont (Calif.) United Soccer Club.
“I’m very happy to be working with the younger players, because I’ve been working with the college as well in the fall,” he said.
Cedeno said the challenge he and the Blue Devils will face in the postseason is figuring out and adapting to the level and style of play of GSL teams.
Fortunately for Walla Walla, it’s somewhat familiar with its opening-round opponent, Lewis and Clark, as the teams squared off March 16 in the Blue Devils’ only nonconference game of the season. It was a 1-0 win for the Tigers.
Wa-Hi will look to forwards Luis Perez (a senior) and Juan Montero (junior), as well as senior midfielder Alexis Galindo, to provide an offensive spark in the postseason.
IN OTHER PLAYOFF ACTION
Speaking of Pasco, the three-time defending conference champion Bulldogs begin their quest for a third straight state tournament appearance by hosting University at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Hanford travels to Ferris and Richland to Central Valley (at Spokane Falls CC) for 5:30 p.m. kickoffs.
Under first-year coach Matt Kessie, Kennewick locked up the MCC’s top Class 3A seed this season, and will host a game in the double-elimination part of the 3A sub-regional at 1 p.m. Saturday. Southridge plays Rogers at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Spokane Falls CC with the winner going on to face Kennewick, and Kamiakin hosts Mt. Spokane at 5 p.m. in another loser-out game with the winner facing North Central on Saturday.