Joe Ascolese and Pete van de Ven were given a chance and they made the most of it.
Sort of like the Spokane Shadow.
After starring in an unconventional shootout earlier in the day, Ascolese set up both goals and van de Ven earned the shutout as the Shadow blanked the Yakima Reds 2-0 Sunday night at Albi Stadium.
The Shadow earned one final home game, next Saturday at 7 p.m. against the San Gabriel Valley Highlanders, with the winner advancing to the USISL Premier League national championship tournament.
The Northwest Division tournament championship game drew a crowd of 1,258, which was good considering no one knew the Shadow would be playing until they survived the Shootout at High Noon.
“I can’t say enough about the fans,” said midfielder Craig Waibel, who scored the first goal on a cross from Ascolese in the 49th minute. “How many came out today for a seven-minute shootout (455)? That’s what carried me tonight. My legs are dead.”
Not so with Ascolese, a former Gonzaga Prep star who has seen limited action this year and was raring for action.
He got his chance because Zane Higgins broke his left leg with three minutes to play in regulation of Saturday’s game with Bellingham. (Higgins had surgery Sunday morning).
“I just had to keep working my way into the team,” said Ascolese, who will be a sophomore at national power Santa Clara. “Zane is our best attacker and he got hurt. I got a chance to step up and show what I can do.”
After an uneventful first half, Waibel started a counterattack early in the second by feeding Ascolese down the left side. Waibel continued his run down the middle and took the return pass about 12 yards out for an easy score.
“That goal seemed to break them,” Waibel said. “They seemed to hang their heads.”
In the 77th minute, Dave Berto sent a head pass to Ascolese, who made a move past a defender and was breaking in on goal when he was tackled, giving Spokane a penalty kick. Berto took the 12-yard kick, easily beating Derek Collins to the right side.
“The first half I thought I was doing pretty well but I wasn’t getting the ball in the box, getting crosses,” Ascolese said. “That’s my job.”
Tired legs played a role in Spokane’s game plan.
“I’m very pleased with the way we played,” Spokane coach Sean Bushey said. “Our style was dictated because of the game last night. We like to press the attack but after a hard game last night we had to give up ground and not give up dangerous chances. We did that … (and) they played to our strengths. We inserted Matt Zlateff at midfield and he gave us a defensive presence (in the first half before Tim Seeley entered). Joe Ascolese stepped in - you can’t replace Zane Higgins - but he played very well.”
Then there was van de Ven, who went into Saturday’s game with the Shadow down 4-2 and was there for all the controversy, earning a start on Sunday.
“There were kind of weird things going on last night. We were fortunate, lucky to come back today,” van de Ven said. “I love pressure situations. One-on-one shootouts are my favorite thing to do. I was confident my team would score and they were confident I would stop them. It worked out the way we hoped.”
There was far less pressure on Sunday with the Shadow playing less aggressively. Yakima only sent eight shots at the goal and van de Ven made three saves.
“There were a few through balls and crosses but my defenders cleared them away,” he said. “Tonight was more of a decision-making night, whether to come out on the ball or stay in. It worked out.”
Shadow 2, Reds 0
First half - none. Second half - 1, Spokane, Craig Waibel (Joe Ascolese) 49:00. 2, Spokane, Dave Berto, penalty kick, 77:00.
Shots - Yakima 8, Spokane 9. Saves - Derek Collins (Yakima) 2, Kenny Friesz (Yakima) 1; Pete van de Ven 3.
Attn. - 1,258
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