With three games left in the Mid-Columbia Conference boys soccer season, the Hanford Falcons have a chance to claim their first league title since 2006, when they were still a member of the Mid-Valley League.
Despite a 11⁄2 game lead over Pasco (9-5 overall, 8-4 MCC) and a two-game advantage over defending MCC champion Kennewick (9-4, 7-4), the Falcons (11-2, 9-2) can’t affort to think about putting championship hardware in the cabinet yet.
With road games at Chiawana (7 p.m. today) and Kennewick (1 p.m. Saturday) fast approaching, Hanford needs one win to earn a share of the MCC championship. Then the Falcons finish up the regular season at home against Kamiakin next Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Two wins will give Hanford an outright league title after finishing fourth at the Class 3A state tournament last seson.
“We’ve got a tough schedule on the back end. That’s enough to think about,” Hanford coach Mike Pardini said. “We pride ourselves in competing in games, and we want to win every game. How it plays out is how it plays out.”
Among the Falcons’ two losses was a 2-0 blanking at home against Kennewick. The Lions, however, have fallen on hard times lately, losing four in a row after a 7-0 start in the MCC. But records don’t always tell the whole story.
“This is a tough league. Even the teams that don’t have winning records are tough teams,” Pardini said.
The Falcons scored eight goals through their first six games of the year. Lately, the offense has seen a bit of a boost with 16 goals over the last seven games.
Senior playmakers Will Eldred (6 goals), Joseph Ghirardo (7 g, 5 a) and Mario Zarate (7 g, 7 a), and defenders Kelly Smith and Kyle McMurrich have done a great deal to keep Hanford on track. Pardini said the contributions of role players are critical to the team’s success as well.
The team may have to play without one of its top players moving forward. Senior forward Will Bishop, who injured his left knee during a 3-1 win over Richland on April 12, will undergo an MRI this week to determine whether he can continue this season.
Grandview grinding out big wins
If you haven’t looked at the CWAC standings lately, the Greyhounds are making a push for their first league title since 2008.
Grandview posted a big win Saturday, a 2-1 home win over Othello, that put them atop the CWAC standings at 6-0.
The Greyhounds may have looked in over their heads at the beginning of the season, compiling a 1-5 record in nonleague play. But coach Grandview coach Anne Holden said those first six games were part of a much bigger plan.
“I met with the guys in the preseason and tried to explain to them that we weren’t going to be the team from last season,” Holden said. “We were going to use the nonleague games to get the picture right and puzzle pieces right. We couldn’t worry about wins or losses in those games.”
Holden said she borrowed a bit of coaching philosophy from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
“They’ve got this indomitable idea that they can play with anyone,” Holden said. “I told them to go out and play every game like a championship game.”
Once league play began, Grandview has allowed just three goals in six CWAC games. League coaches may not have noticed the Greyhounds’ talent at first, but those same coaches are getting a different look at a motivated team that just may end up winning the league.
“Every coach tells me how unvelievable that our guys just show up and play. It really feels like they’ve earned a lot of respect,” Holden said. “If you watch them play, you see them all smiling. I’ve never had a team quite like that. I’ve had some talented teams, but I don’t think they realize how good they really are.”
After Toppenish (8-3-1 overall, 5-0 CWAC) plays host to Othello on Tuesday, Grandview (7-5, 6-0) will face Toppenish (8-3-1, 5-0) at home Thursday with the league title at stake.