EAST WENATCHEE — A healthy dose of rain wasn’t going to slow the Eastmont boys soccer team in the first half of its game against regional foe Chelan on Thursday afternoon.
While the first half was marked by a high number of goals, the second half was a defensive slugfest with both teams struggling to get their respective attacks collaborated. Neither team scored in the second half, and the Wildcats ended up with a 5-1 victory.
“The first half, we were able to make connections,” Eastmont head coach Eric Duffey said. “We worked hard and committed, and our finishing was perfect in the first half.”
The Wildcats wasted little time as junior Eric Valadez scored in the fourth minute on a well-executed set play off of a penalty kick just outside of the box.
Valadez, who typically plays on the defensive end, set the tone for the Wildcats with his early score, according to Duffey.
“You see that first one go in and it continues after that,” he said. “People have the confidence to step up and put one on frame. One of our weapons is that we have lots of goal scorers.”
Those goal scorers were at full-force in the first half Thursday. Just six minutes after Valadez’s strike, senior Cristian Sanchez placed a beautiful shot over the outreached hands of the diving Chelan goalie Miguel Sanchez.
“They showed up, we did not, bottom line,” Chelan head coach Jamie Richards said. “I haven’t seen our boys play like this all year. It’s a good thing it happened now in a non-league game.”
Chelan had trouble capitalizing in the first half despite the majority of the frame being played in Eastmont’s end. Richards wasn’t positive what was slowing his usually potent attack — the Goats had scored 29 goals while allowing just two scores from opponents going into Thursday’s match.
“There might have been some fear,” Richards said. “I have never seen them get beat to the ball before.”
Richards was quick to dismiss the conditions as a reason why his team fell behind and stayed behind, saying “both teams had to play out there.”
The Wildcats continued their onslaught after Sanchez’s goal with three more unanswered goals — two from Hernan Mendoza, and one from Mauricio Perez — until Chelan’s Erik Garcia found the back of the net in the 34th minute after a turnover by the Eastmont goalkeeper.
Both coaches noted that spring break changed their players’ routines, and that may have accounted for their teams’ apparent fatigue in the waning minutes of the contest.
“We had a lot of players working or on vacation. We’d have eight players at practice at points this week,” Duffey said. “We may not be there yet physically, to be able to play a full 80. … We didn’t play a full 80 minutes.”
“I gave my boys the day off yesterday. Maybe that was the wrong call,” Richards said. “Coaches make mistakes too.”
Despite the sluggish second half, Duffey was happy with his team’s effort overall.
“The speed of play was there,” he said. “There were wide-open holes, and shooting on goal was easy because we had time and we had space and people were making better decisions in the distribution of the ball.”
Chelan will have to regroup before playing Cashmere on Tuesday, while Eastmont will hope to use this game as momentum heading into its home tilt against Moses Lake.
“(Moses Lake) is No. 2 in the Big 9,” Duffey said. “They’re a physical team. We need to keep our heads and stay in control.”
Jacob Palmer: twitter.com/JPalmWW