As the Kennewick soccer players posed with the 3A regional trophy at midfield of Albi Stadium, Shadle Park coach Donavon Hodgson called his players to the sideline for a little pep talk.
There’s still work to be done, he reminded them.
“We set goals at the beginning of the season to be regional champions and go to state,” Hodgson said Thursday night after the Highlanders fell 3-0 to the Lions. “We still have the goal of going to state, and they’ll be up to the challenge.”
That will come Saturday afternoon on the same field against Hanford, which eliminated University 2-1 in overtime to set up a winner-to-state, loser-out match with the Highlanders.
“We just need to calm down and have a short-term memory,” Hodgson said.
Kennewick dominated possession throughout, forcing Shadle goalkeeper Kenji Booey to make 11 saves. The Lions had several near misses in the first half, but the match was still scoreless at intermission.
Shadle struggled to move the ball past midfield, though midfielder Peter Sokolis was just wide on a header with 10 minutes left before half. Moments later he saved a ball off the line with a header.
Kennewick finally broke through after a free kick in the 46th minute, when Ken Navarro emerged from a pack of Highlanders, turned and rifled the ball past Booey and into the right side of the goal.
Seven minutes later, the Lions’ Adrian Rojo finished off the best goal of the night. Teammate Ramiro Chavez found space on the outside and lofted a ball to Rojo, whose header sent the ball powerfully into the net.
Brandon Lopez finished the scoring in the 74th minute.
“I think we were playing a little scared,” Hodgson said.
The match was hard-fought, with several yellow cards issued. Midway through the first half, play was halted because several Kennewick fans were cursing at the Shadle players. Officials banished the fans to the upper reaches of the stadium.
Hanford 2, University 1 (OT): Barely a minute into overtime, the Falcons took advantage of a turnover and Mario Zarate capitalized with a well-placed shot that ended the Titans’ season.
“It’s always difficult in overtime – our legs were tired,” University coach Scott Kerwien said. “It’s a difficult loss, an emotional loss, especially for our seniors.”
University came into the match on a four-game winning streak built largely on defense, but a missed assignment led to a Hanford score off a corner kick midway through the first half.
“Our defense has been really steadfast,” Kerwien said. “It was just a difficult breakdown.”
University equalized 4 minutes into the second half as Kyle Bender took a deft pass from Chris Donich and shot past Hanford goalkeeper Jacob Thiel.
The Titans had several good chances in the second half but Hanford had the best one when U-Hi keeper Quinn Howe came too far off his line and watched a long shot by William Bishop pass just over the crossbar.
Moments later, Howe made a nice save on an open 15-yard shot from Hanford.
The Titans finished 7-8.