Despite some scares along the way, the Pasco Bulldogs went undefeated in the first round of Mid-Columbia Conference soccer play.
Pasco kicks off the second half of its MCC season at 7 p.m. Tuesday, hosting Richland at Edgar Brown Stadium. Fellow Class 4A teams Walla Walla and Chiawana are on the Bulldogs’ schedule later in the week.
The Bulldogs are happy about their 9-0 overall record and 7-0 conference mark, but their emotions are tempered a bit after their experience last spring.
Pasco finished 14-0 in the MCC, but then lost to Central Valley in the 4A regional championship game and in the state quarterfinals.
“We were undefeated last year (in league) and didn’t make it to where we wanted to go,” coach Matt Potter said. “They fully realize you can be undefeated and not attain your goal.”
With that in mind, the Bulldogs put in work during the offseason, playing pickup games with program alumni at Edgar Brown Stadium.
The extra practice has paid off. It also helps to have five returning all-leaguers: senior Hector Magana, last season’s MCC player of the year and a first-team pick at forward; first-team defender Oswal Lopez and forward Jesus Meraz-Rodriguez; and second-team defender Alex Kirk and midfielder Joel Valle. Meraz-Rodriguez, a junior, leads the team with seven goals and four assists.
They’re sharing the field with a talented group of underclassmen that includes sophomore Oscar Cortez (four goals, three assists), freshman Edwin Aquino (three goals, four assists) and Meraz-Rodriguez’s brother Kevin, a sophomore defender.
Senior David Armenta and sophomore Francisco Moreno have split time protecting the net. The Bulldogs have a 0.6 goals against average and three shutouts.
“The defense and the goalkeepers have certainly done their part of the job,” Potter said.
They have helped Pasco prevail in some tight games this season, including overtime wins against Richland and Kamiakin.
“Being undefeated is great,” Potter said. “We had some really, really difficult games. We’ve been pushed, we’ve been tested and that’s what you need in the regular season.”
BRAVES, FALCONS BACK AT IT: Kamiakin (3-6 overall, 3-4 MCC) and Hanford (4-5, 4-3) return to the pitch for a key MCC 3A contest at 6 p.m. Monday at Lampson Stadium.
Kamiakin’s record might not be where coach Jeff Bennett would like it to be, but there are several encouraging signs for the Braves as they start the second round of MCC action.
Goalkeeper Marco Covarrubias has 31 saves on the year.
“He has played every minute of every game and has already weathered six penalty kicks this season so far,” Bennett said.
The forwards are attacking well, the back line and midfield have been highly effective, and freshman Lucas Scrimsher “is training in all the positions right down the spine of the team from center forward to center back,” Bennett said. “Between his shots, assists, commanding the ball in the air and possessing the ball on the turf, he is showing himself to (be) quickly adjusting to the demanding pace of the middle of the field.”
Over at Hanford, coach Mike Pardini is getting production from Will Eldred (four goals, four assists), Iovani Rodriguez (3G, 3A) and Moamel Abd Ali (4G, 2A). Defensively, Kanyen Nelson has been a leader for the Falcons.
“(Our) strength has been our intensity and work rate,” Pardini said. “(Our) weakness has been our inability to consistently take advantage of our opportunities.”