KENNEWICK -- The hour-long bus ride from Sunnyside to Lampson Stadium sounded like one big bummer for the Grizzlies boys soccer team on Saturday morning.
"On the way here, some of our guys were feeling negative. To tell you the truth, we thought (Southridge) was going to come out with a win," said Sunnyside's Max Ramos of the defending league champion Suns.
Thanks to Ramos, the bus ride home would be a lot more fun.
The junior, who played 30 minutes at midfield in a 1-0 CBBN 3A victory, scored the only goal of the match in the 59th minute, putting Sunnyside into a tie for second place behind front-runner Eastmont.
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Eddie (Garcia) tried to head it in, but then it came out to me," Ramos said. "I'm usually more of a guy who will hold it, but my first thought was just to shoot it. It looked like a good idea at the time."
Turned out he was right. Squaring up just inside the 18-yard box, Ramos drilled a low shot into the right corner of the net, beating Southridge goalkeeper James Fort.
The Suns have been fighting to find the chemistry that carried them to their first state trophy in boys soccer last year, but events conspired against them Saturday. Chandler Mertens sat out to serve the final game of his red card ban, and his brother Conner missed the game to participate in a mock trial for the school.
The Suns' third consecutive home loss, however, left them in desperate need of a win.
"Yeah, it sucks after (the success of) last year to lose three straight on your home turf," said Fort, who stopped five shots, including a spectacular diving save in the 73rd minute on a shot by Garcia.
"Our defense played well. It's a matter of all of us playing up to our full potential," Fort said.
Southridge did have one major weapon -- senior striker Jake Zoulek, the returning league MVP -- at its disposal. The Suns, however, played the entire first half with Zoulek at sweeper after using the same strategy in a 2-0 win over Pasco last Tuesday.
"Later on in tight games, we'll be able to put him back there with a lead," said Southridge coach Chip Elfering. "He's a natural striker, though."
The first half was scoreless, but without Zoulek's strength and speed up top, Southridge failed to generate much offense. So the Suns coach moved Zoulek back to striker for the second half. The move did generate a few opportunities for Zoulek, including a clean shot on goal in the 51st minute that got deflected away at the last minute by a defender.
But Ramos caught the defense off guard after the Suns stopped Garcia's header in the 59th minute.
"We just didn't clear it," Elfering said. "We stopped the first shot, then guys turned their heads."
Scoring--1, Sun, Max Ramos, 59:00. Shots--Sun 11, South 13. Saves--Sun, Cristian Vargas 4. South, James Fort 5.