YAKIMA — The Wenatchee Panthers girls’ soccer team was able to finally win at West Valley for the first time in six years. Basically, the Rams have beaten the Panthers at home every year they have been in the Big 9.
Wenatchee won 2-0 on Tuesday at Yakima. Wenatchee Head Coach John Springer at first downplayed the achievement saying it doesn’t mean much. It’s just another game.
“It meant a lot to the girls. Obviously, they’ve never won down there either. Last year’s seniors were disappointed to have never won down there,” Springer said. “The girls were aware of that going into it. They played well. They were excited to get a win down there. Fortunately, we came out on top.”
The difference in the game, Springer said, was the performance of junior goalkeeper Nyah Hughes.
“Our goalkeeper Nyah had some great saves. Early in the game, I thought we possessed the ball well and created momentum but West Valley, as they always do have some quick counters against us,” he said. “They had some really good scoring opportunities that Nyah broke up. She just set the tone for the rest of the team.”
The two teams played to a scoreless first half. Springer felt his team was possessing the ball and getting opportunities. They needed to tighten up defensively and get more numbers forward to get better shot opportunities. The girls were able to do that.
Springer said they talked at halftime about getting that one goal that could turn into two. Just seven minutes into the second half, senior Maddy Smith had a corner kick. The keeper bobbled the ball, which allowed junior Olivia Bowman to boot the ball into the goal.
Wenatchee scored the game’s first goal to take a 1-0 lead. Springer felt like that took some wind from the West Valley sails.
“West Valley has been struggling this year. They lost a lot of key players. They were probably feeling some good momentum being scoreless at halftime. It felt like if we could get one, we could relax a little and put more heat on them,” he said.
Just four minutes later, the Panthers had a nice build-up from the midfield. Junior Yareli Sanchez-Blanco laid out a nice ball to sophomore Taylor Scheongarth who nailed a shot into the upper corner from 20 feet out.
That put Wenatchee up 2-0.
“That was her second goal of the year. She has been working her tail off up top with Riley Grosdidier but not getting a lot of goals,” Springer said.
After the second goal, Springer said they made a switch to ward off any more counter-attacks. They added another defender. They tried to maintain possession and not give up any silly passes that might create a counter-attack.
Five girls, four freshmen, and one sophomore, came up to varsity and played a role helping Wenatchee to keep fresh legs on the field throughout the game.
“They contributed quite a bit, which made a difference in terms of keeping legs fresh,” he said. “Each showed well with potential for the future. It was important to keep the fresh legs. Nice opportunity for them to gain varsity experience. All five have the potential to help us out this year or next.”
Certainly, through the remaining minutes of the game, West Valley was pressing to get that first goal. One shot was going into the upper corner, but keeper Hughes was able to poke it away. After that, Springer said he knew they had the game.
With the win, Wenatchee improved to 4-1 in the Big 9 and 6-2 overall. West Valley dropped to 1-3 in the Big 9 and 1-5 overall.
With Eastmont’s 2-1 loss to Davis on Tuesday, the Panthers are Wildcats are now tied for the lead in the conference.
“Davis has had Eastmont’s number a lot over the years. That’s always a really close game. I figured it would be again too. We were fortunate to score on opportunities against Davis. Some teams just match up differently with different teams,” he said. “West Valley has been our nemesis over the years. It seems Davis has always played Eastmont tight. Hopefully, both teams (Wenatchee and Eastmont) can keep winning out.”