EAST WENATCHEE — The Eastmont Wildcats needed this one.
Sitting one game ahead of West Valley in the standings, Eastmont could have locked up the regular-season title with a win Tuesday on Senior Night. But after losing 4-2, the Wildcats now find themselves in a three-way tie with the Rams and Wenatchee with one game remaining.
“It wasn’t a great result,” Eastmont head coach Vidal Hurtado said following the loss, which dropped the Wildcats to 12-3 on the season. “I felt like we came out with a lot of pressure on our shoulders; it was a big game and we kind of started a little too tight.”
It didn’t help that West Valley found the net within the first 15 minutes.
“That rattled us a little bit,” Hurtado said.
The Wildcats struggled to build an attack after falling behind, though they did generate one good look midway through the half after getting on a counter. Eastmont was able to cycle the ball to Liliana Johnson just inside the 18-yard box but she couldn’t get enough pace on her attempt and rolled a shot right at the keeper.
That was all the Wildcats could muster in the first half.
“I (felt) we were lacking intensity and our passes weren’t necessarily on point,” Hurtado said. “We just weren’t producing much. But even so, we still managed to finish the half just a goal down.”
The halftime message, Hurtado said, was to pick up the intensity and play with a little more purpose. And for the first 25 minutes of the second half, they did. Eastmont started to hold possession and tilted the field offensively. Kylee Maytrychit eventually broke through in the 62nd minute, scoring off a free kick that was mishandled by the Rams keeper.
After leveling the score at 1-1, Eastmont seized all of the momentum. They couldn’t hold onto it for long though.
Eastmont’s Ali Tiechner, who has been superb in net all season, made a series of mistakes in a 10-minute span that gave West Valley a commanding 4-1 lead. The Wildcats were able to cut into the Rams lead and draw within two after Johnson scored in the 72nd minute, but West Valley was able to hang on from there.
“Ali has saved us a bunch of times already this season,” Hurtado said. “But it was a difficult night for her and us all around. We just have to learn to grow from these kinds of defeats and move on to our next game, which is Davis on Thursday.”
If Eastmont can bounce back on Thursday, the Wildcats should be able to lock up a spot in the district title game — where they’d likely face the Rams. Eastmont is 0-2 so far this season against West Valley, but Hurtado wants another shot.
“Definitely,” he said. “To be completely honest, I do want to play them one more time. Going back to our first game, we lost 2-1 but we weren’t able to finish a few opportunities. Tonight we were in it until we weren’t, I guess. We just have to learn from our mistakes and play our game. We can do it in a third match.”
The final standings are a little up in the air at the moment. West Valley has the advantage but Wenatchee is right there as well after beating Moses Lake 7-2 on Tuesday. The Panthers close out their season on Saturday on the road against Sunnyside.
“This next game is crucial for all of us,” Hurtado said. “That will determine first and second, so there’s a lot at stake.”
Kickoff for Eastmont on Thursday is at 4 p.m.