Halfway through the CBBN 3A league schedule, the Pasco boys soccer team couldn't wait to put what they considered a sub-par start behind them.
The Bulldogs should be much more encouraged, however, with a 1-0 win over Southridge on Tuesday at Lampson Stadium. For one, it avenged a 2-0 loss to the Suns three weeks ago in Pasco.
Most importantly, it got the Bulldogs believing in themselves again.
"We're very happy with the win. A shutout is really important to us. We hadn't had one in a while," said Pasco coach Matt Potter. "The first half of the season was not up to our standards at all. Right now, at 1-0 we're right where we want to be to start the second half."
Derek Zimmerman scored the only goal of the match on a penalty kick in the 64th minute after forward Eric Cuevas was fouled inside the Southridge penalty area. Up to that point, Suns goalkeeper James Fort had been masterful, making several difficult saves in a tight game.
But Zimmerman, a returning all-CBBN 3A midfielder, drove his shot into the low right corner past a diving Fort to put Pasco up 1-0.
"I never really pick my spot. As I'm going up to shoot, I'll just try to see what the goalie is doing," said Zimmerman, who added a little insult to injury after the goal. After the ball rolled out of the net, he drove it into the back of the net for emphasis.
Zimmerman said there was a lot of trash talk going back and forth before that, and his emotions got the best of him.
"I probably shouldn't have done that," he said. "We're rivals, and this game always gets pretty chippy. It's best to try and keep a level head, but it doesn't always work out."
The Suns, who have lost four straight league matches, have struggled to find a rhythm all season, having to juggle lineups because of injuries and a myriad of bad luck. The worst news came recently after forward Jake Zoulek, the CBBN 3A player of the year in 2011, was lost for the season with a lateral collateral ligament (LCL) tear in his knee.
"Jake was our finisher. Now we're looking for someone to step up and finish," said Southridge coach Chip Elfering.
Potter said Zoulek's absence was a major factor.
"Everybody feels it when anybody goes down with a season-ending injury," Potter said. "He played in back when they beat us last time and made a huge difference. You've got to account for him wherever he is."
Despite Zoulek's absence, the Suns still managed to play well enough to make a game of it. Fort made a few brilliant, diving saves that would have otherwise ended up in the back of the net.
"He made some great saves. He definitely did his job," Potter said.
Bulldogs' keeper Jose Ramos stopped two shots for the shutout. Pasco outshot Southridge 17-12.
Overall, Elfering was pleased with the effort, if not the final score.
"The guys we have are starting to come together a little more. I'm proud of them," he said.
Scoring--1, P, Derek Zimmerman (PK), 64:00. Shots--P 17, SR 12. Saves--P, Jose Ramos 2. SR, James Fort 9, .