CASHMERE — Soccer can be a cruel, humbling game at times.
The Panthers came into their game against Cashmere feeling pretty confident after pulling out a win against Ingraham over the weekend.
Tuesday just wasn’t their night.
Wenatchee outshot Cashmere 16-6 (unofficially), dominated possession throughout the entire 80 minutes and lost, 2-1. For the Panthers (2-1) it’s a tough pill to swallow considering it’s their first loss since last season's opener against Eastmont. But for the Bulldogs, who had lost their last three games coming in, Tuesday’s win was immense.
It’s a huge boost in the RPI rankings — a new addition this season for soccer — as a quality win and serves as a good motivator for the Bulldogs (2-3) as they head into league play next week and a matchup with La Salle.
“We set our schedule up to play competitive teams and we felt we could compete in these first five matches over the last 11 days,” Cashmere head coach Dennis Tronson said after the win. “We knew coming in that it would be physical since the girls know each other (and) we mixed it up after playing them in the spring.”
Cashmere still sat back and looked for chances to counter. But the difference between Tuesday and last March was that the Bulldogs pounced on the Panthers' mistakes. Wenatchee pressed for a goal in the opening 20 minutes but failed to convert a pair of corners and sliced one shot just wide from outside the penalty area.
The Panthers then got careless with a pass out of their zone in the 21st minute and Cashmere took advantage.
Isabella Hansch, who Tronson moved up to center forward, flicked in a rebound to give Cashmere a 1-nil lead. The Bulldogs hunkered down the rest of the half and carried the lead into the break.
Tronson knew that Wenatchee and head coach David Vasquez would come after the Bulldogs in the second half. Cashmere’s insurance goal five minutes into the second half alleviated some of that pressure though. The Bulldogs got on another counter and Carley Diaz scored after taking one touch past a Wenatchee defender and toeing the ball into the net.
“I couldn’t be happier with that goal; she separated the backline nicely,” Tronson said. “(Wenatchee) came out exactly how I thought. They tried to build some possession in the midfield and use the backline to be walls. We had to adjust and got caught a few times getting out of shape but we’ve really only focused on this system for two days. We’re starting to learn the nuances of where we need to be.”
Trailing 2-nil, Wenatchee dialed up the intensity over the final half-hour. The Panthers generated several quality chances and had two balls clank off the crossbar, but nothing got past Cashmere’s Ava Courtney until the 73rd minute.
Junior Masyn Heggem made a nice run down the sideline and earned a penalty kick after getting taken down in the box while trying to take a shot on net. Senior Halle Stegeman converted the PK to draw Wenatchee back within a goal.
Stegeman got one more good look at goal in the closing minutes but Courtney reeled in the one-timer.
“I can’t say enough about Ava; she had some great saves tonight,” Tronson said.
After a tough stretch, Cashmere will have the next week off to prepare for La Salle next Tuesday. Wenatchee starts its Big 9 season on Saturday, hosting Eisenhower. Kickoff at the Apple Bowl is at noon.