Impenetrable East Valley defenders held the fort for three-quarters of their opening-round State 2A soccer playoff match against Selah on Tuesday at Joe Albi Stadium, waiting for some offensive electricity.
The lightning came 3 minutes apart in the form of sophomore scoring machine Adam Talley, who connected from 40 yards out and 1-on-1 on a breakaway, giving the Knights their first state tournament victory in a dozen years.
In the nightcap at Albi, Stadium of Tacoma scored an early second-half goal for a 1-0 triumph over Ferris to end the Saxons’ season.
EV’s 2-0 win came over visiting Selah which appeared faster than the Knights and smoother in its set-play game thereby keeping the ball in EV’s half of the field much of the match. By contrast, there’s nothing sophisticated about the Knights’ offense.
“We don’t work the ball around that much,” Talley said. “We’re an odd team, but we’re really good.”
And the Vikings are young with six sophomores or freshmen in the starting lineup. By contrast, six Knights seniors, said coach Jeff Paulus, are the heart and soul of his team’s success.
Talley wouldn’t disagree.
But the defense is amazing,” he said. “It’s the best I’ve been around.”
Seniors Jon Merkel, Miles Rinne, Tyler Tran and Jacob Fitterer are the defensive glue that, despite several Selah shots, allowed only one serious foray on goal.
“Defense wins championships,” Merkel said.
And true to Talley’s comment that the Knights (16-2) are usually a second-half team, they gained energy as the game progressed.
A change of jersey during intermission apparently didn’t hurt Talley either. He switched out his torn No. 11 for No. 15 to become the mystery scorer. His first, a laser that came at the 62-minute mark, was questionable as it appeared to be deflected just outside the net by Selah keeper Avery Miller. Just 3 minutes later Talley found himself behind the defense on a series started by Merkel, and Miller was no match in the 1-on-1 confrontation.
“I couldn’t tell,” said Talley of his first goal. “I thought it was good (Paulus concurred, saying it hit just inside the corner of the net then bounced out). The second was just a breakaway and it was a good play by Tristan (Tran) to make the pass.”
Two scores were enough for the defense to finish its task.
“Our whole team is built on defense,” Paulus said. “The defense was playing perfect and when you play perfect defense you’re in every game. And when you have a dangerous player like Talley, something good is going to happen.”
EV is in the state quarterfinals in just its second state tourney since last winning a first-round game in 1999.
“It feels amazing,” Talley said. “It feels great to just be a part of this.”
The Knights play either Othello or Ellensburg this weekend in the second round.
Stadium 1, Ferris 0: It wasn’t for want of opportunity that the season is ended for the Saxons (14-4). They outshot the visiting Tigers 14-6, several at point-blank range.
The trouble, coach Robin Crain said, was making the shots.
“We had so many chances, but just didn’t score,” he said. “We put them under pressure constantly and just weren’t lucky finishing. Unfortunately, the better team didn’t win.”
Both played hard in the frantic up-and-downfield confrontation and Stadium made good on the one shot necessary.
Just more than a minute into the second half, a perfect corner kick by Cesar Cervantes found Jacob Beardemphl in front of the goal and he headed it in.
A bit later Stadium goalkeeper Eric Owen’s last-ditch dive denied one Ferris goal. Saxon Isaac Peter had two direct 1-on-1 shots that lacked the necessary oomph and Owen batted away another assault that looked as if it were good.
It simply wasn’t Ferris’ day.
“Look at the shots. It’s not even close,” Crain said. “But we didn’t finish. It happens in this game sometime.”
Chiawana 3, Lewis and Clark 0: Rene Solorio scored twice as the Riverhawks eliminated the Tigers (10-9) at Pasco.
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