A pair of Tri-Cities boys soccer teams will make their first appearances at state today, but both are playing like they've been there before.
Not only have the Chiawana Riverhawks won consecutive loser-out games against defending CBBN champion Walla Walla and GSL co-champion Mead, but they took care of both teams on the road.
The Riverhawks (9-7) will play host to Lewis & Clark (10-8) in the first round of the 4A state tournament at 6 p.m. today at Chiawana High School.
"We're just peaking at the right time. I think maybe through all the struggles we had during the course of the regular season we learned some lessons," said Riverhawks coach Rich Zoller. "The boys had a really good attitude even though we took some tough losses, but we handled adversity well. We've found some good leadership, and we're putting it all together."
The Southridge Suns (15-2) have enjoyed a landmark season in which they earned their first CBBN 3A league title. Now, after beating Pasco for the first time in school history in Saturday's 3A Eastern Regional championship, the Suns have a great deal of momentum heading into today's first-round 3A state match against Lake Washington (12-6-1) at 6 p.m. at Lampson Stadium.
The Suns haven't had to face a loser-out playoff situation before -- the regional championship was strictly for state seeding -- but coach Chip Elfering doesn't expect that to be an issue.
"After our second (regular-season) loss to Pasco, we started to prepare for every game as if it were loser-out, because we really wanted the title," Elfering said. "We told the boys if they lose one more, there's no title. We went into every game thinking we couldn't lose."
That strategy worked, as Southridge won six straight games to end the regular season, while the Bulldogs slipped out of first place with unexpected losses to Eastmont and Sunnyside.
Pasco (14-4) lost twice to Eastmont (14-5) this season, but the Bulldogs will get another shot at the Wildcats at 6 p.m. today at Edgar Brown Stadium. If you think Pasco, in its 16th state appearance, is worried about the regular-season losses to Eastmont, think again.
"It's hard to beat a team three times in a row," said Bulldogs midfielder Derek Zimmerman. "We're looking forward to seeing them again."
Othello (11-5), in its eighth state appearance, will play host to Ellensburg (9-6) in a 2A first-round match at 6 p.m. today. The Huskies, who feature CWAC player of the year Jorge Campos, also will be looking for a little revenge for a 2-0 regular-season loss to the Bulldogs in early April.
In the 1A state tournament, SCAC East champion Wahluke (16-2) will defend its 2010 state title with a first-round home match against Okanogan (14-5) at 4 p.m. today in Mattawa. Royal (15-3), the league runner-up, will make its first-ever boys state appearance at Brewster (16-2-1) today at 5 p.m.
Warden will play its first-round match at Lynden Christian at 5 p.m.