When it comes to playoff soccer, toughness is at the top of the list for qualities that can help a team move on to the next round.
Where they find it can sometimes be the tricky part. Not all players are born with natural grit.
But the Chiawana Riverhawks boys have a good example of it every day in practice. Their coach, Rich Zoller, is a 1989 Richland High School graduate who helped set that program's standard for toughness before he entered the coaching ranks.
"He played defense, and he was a leader," said Bombers coach Octavio DoValle, who started up Richland's boys soccer program in 1987. "On our state quarterfinal team (in 1988), he played with a broken jaw wired shut. He was on the bus heading up to Seattle eating liquefied meat. That's how tough the guy is."
Zoller is now in his sixth season coaching boys and girls high school soccer. He started at Prosser in 2005 before being hired as Chiawana's boys and girls coach before the 2010 school year.
Saturday's 3-0 CBBN 4A district road win over defending league champion Walla Walla stands as one of the biggest coaching wins of his career. The Riverhawks did it by digging deep and finding some of that inner toughness that Zoller knew they had.
"That was probably the best game we've played this season. It was the first time we've put all the phases together," said Zoller, who led the Prosser boys to a third-place finish at state in 2009.
He also led the Mustangs girls to state three straight seasons from 2007-2009.
But lately he's transferred that success to Chiawana, where he guided the girls program to its first state berth in the fall. Now, he's one win away from the boys' first state appearance.
The Riverhawks (8-7) will face Mead (11-2) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane. The winner earns the No. 2 seed into the 4A state tournament.
Rene Solorio, a senior forward recently named to the All-CBBN 4A first team, had three assists against the Blue Devils, while junior midfielder Sam Nunez returned from a twisted ankle to score two goals.
"This season we've had our ups and downs, but coach always taught us to bounce back and fight even harder," said Nunez, who missed most of the regular season.
Though Chiawana was 0-4 all-time against Walla Walla, Solorio took it upon himself to reverse that trend.
"We needed someone to step up and take charge. They're a good team," Solorio said.
DoValle, by the way, could join his former protege at state if Richland can beat Lewis & Clark at 2 p.m. Saturday at Bomber Field. In fact, if the Bombers and Riverhawks win their next two games, they would face each other in the 4A quarterfinals.
But Solorio said the team can't get too far ahead of itself thinking about the possibilities.
"This is a new experience for Chiawana boys soccer. We've got to make the most of it," Solorio said.