PUYALLUP – The Central Valley Bears had to have known at some point their fortunes against the Wenatchee Panthers would change for the worse.
They just wish the stakes hadn’t been so high when they did.
The Panthers finally beat the Bears, 2-0, on Friday evening in the 4A State Semifinals. The game served as a rematch both of last year’s semifinal game, which the Bears won, and the 2-0 Central Valley victory in both team’s season-opener this year.
The Panthers (15-7) are a different team than the one that CV shut out to begin the season, having now won their last nine games.
For Central Valley (16-4), the aggressiveness Wenatchee displayed on offense was a shock. The Bears have averaged 4.3 goals per game this season, but did not get off a shot until early in the second half, as the Panthers offense kept CV’s defenders on their heels.
“I’ve never seen a team attack us so much before,” said CV coach Andres Monrroy. “They did a good job defensively. Attacking, I thought our defense was really, really busy.”
Goalkeeper Kendall Findley stopped multiple quality scoring opportunities for the Panthers by charging out to the top of the box and pouncing on the ball, even as the Wenatchee forwards brought their legs forward for a strike.
Less than a minute after one such stop, Wenatchee capitalized on a counterattack. Forward Jason Shepard rifled a pass to fellow sophomore Luis Navarette, who ended up with a one-on-one matchup with Findley. Navarette blasted a shot past the keeper from 10-yards out for the game’s first goal.
The Panthers tacked on another goal in the 69th minute when junior Matt Springer’s flip throw-in found sophomore midfielder Jacob Slife in front of the Central Valley goal. Slife slipped a shot into the corner of the net, all but ending the Bears’ title hopes.
CV had hoped to avenge last year’s state title game loss against Snohomish. The Bears have made the state semifinals in three consecutive years, including last year’s 1-0 victory over Wenatchee.
“Our goal this year was to play in the championship and now they have to play in the third-place game,” Monrroy said. “It’s not a fun one to play. But we’ll come here tomorrow and do our best.”
The consolation game between the Bears and Snohomish, 4-2 losers to Tacoma in Friday night’s other semifinal game, will be played at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup on Saturday at noon.
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