MATTAWA — Alejandro Rivera drilled an early 25-yard shot, and Wahluke went on to beat Mabton 4-3 in the first round South Central A Conference District Soccer action Friday.
The win propelled the Warriors (13-5) to a Tuesday night semifinal match at Royal. If Wahluke beats the Knights the team will advance to the SCAC championship game on Thursday, and receive an automatic berth to the state tournament.
The Mabton contest opened with the Warriors immediately on the attack, keeping the ball between the mid-line and the Vikings goal most of the first five minutes.
Shortly after the fourth minute, the Warriors were on the attack again with Tony Espindola and Erick Perez executing remarkable footwork to control and advance the ball.
“Tony brings dynamism to the game,” said coach Arthur DeVictoria.
Espindola, an excellent player in his own right, shines when two or three players mark Manny Hidalgo.
“That happens in every game,” DeVictoria said. “He’s too good to cover with one man.”
The pressure eventually caught Mabton defenders out of position, and Perez centered the ball to Rivera in the middle of the field about 25-yards out. Rivera caught it on the dead run, rifled his shot by stunned defenders, and placed the ball into the right center of the goal out of the reach of the keeper.
It was not an easy contest for the Warriors, however, against the SCAC West’s No. 2 team. The Vikings came roaring back and scored the tying goal in the seventh minute. The score held up as the teams traded excellent defensive play until halftime.
“Mabton was tough,” DeVictoria said. “We knew they play well on their field, and they did it again.”
Of particular note was the contribution of defender Eric Valdovinos for the Warriors. His ankle was cleated, and he left the game for 15 minutes.
“He wanted to come back in. He wasn’t 100 percent, but he battled,” DeVictoria said.
Mabton took a temporary 2-1 lead shortly after the second half kickoff. But with 22 minutes left in game, the Wahluke offense began to assert itself.
In the 58th minute, the Vikings fouled Tony Espindola inside the penalty box. DeVictoria sent his senior all-everything Hidalgo to the spot, and Hidalgo delivered a blazing shot the keeper could do nothing about.
Just eight minutes later, Wahluke found the netting again. Driving up the left side, Hidalgo found substitute Alejandro Vazquez in position and fired a pass Vazquez converted into a 3-2 lead. Three minutes later, Josue Gatica drilled the fourth goal unassisted to give the Warriors a two-goal lead.
The score remained 4-2 to the end of regulation, but Mabton still had life when the center official added three and a half minutes of extra time. The Vikings scored a goal in the final minute, but it was too little too late to mount a tying rally.
Wahluke matched up with the Knights in Royal Tuesday for the right to move on to the SCAC championship game on the line, but the results were not available at press time.
Six members of the Wahluke squad were named to the SCAC East All-League teams. Named First Team All-League were junior forward Tony Espindola, senior defender Alonso Perez, senior keeper Ulysses Gonzalez and senior forward Hidalgo. Hidalgo has been given a scholarship by South Puget Sound Community College.
He has been a Wahluke mainstay since his freshman year, had a stellar season. He produced 18 goals and four assists. He was constantly on the attack with 77 shots on goal.
In 18 games, Gonzalez came up with 54 saves. He produced five shutouts and five 1-goal games. Espindola, Perez and Gonzalez will go to the SPSCC tryout camp after graduation.
Named Second Team All-League was senior defender Gatica and senior midfielder Perez.