Wednesday, October 27, 2004

WR boys earn a return to state

Three must-win victories for state ticket

Express Staff Writer

It was an eventful week that included three must-win victories in five days, freezing rain in Pocatello, two red-card controversies and academic problems for several players.

Not your usual stress-free Homecoming Week. ?It was more of a mental challenge for us than a physical one. But we got our heads into it and now are going to state,? said Wood River boys? soccer coach Farrell Swain.

When all was said and done, the Wood River High School boys? varsity soccer team earned the program?s 17th state soccer tournament berth since 1986. The Wolverines open play in the eight-team State 4A tournament Thursday afternoon in Meridian.

Having overcome many obstacles during its tough 17-game season, top-ranked Wood River (15-1-1, 7-0 away, 63-15 goals-against) is now looking forward to going down to Meridian and playing some ball this weekend.

The road won?t be easy.

Wood River, although new to the 4A crowd, will have a target on its back after winning three State 3A tournament titles in six years and playing in the state championship game each year since 1998.

The Wolverines open Thursday at 2 p.m. against Skyview of Nampa (11-2-2), the Third District champion by a 2-0 margin over Nampa.

Wood River teams have fond memories of games against Skyview, since a 1-1 draw with the Hawks at state in 1998 and a 0-0 tie against Skyview at Twin Falls in 1999 were instrumental to the Wolverines gaining their first two state soccer titles.

Since the Idaho High School Activities Association took over sanctioning soccer in 2000, the previous World Cup round-robin format used by the Idaho Youth Soccer Association has been abandoned and ties are now settled by sudden death overtime.

It?s cleaner. After the ups-and-downs of last week?s developments, first-year coach Swain is partial to anything that is plain and simple.

Swain said, ?We need to focus on the things we?ve worked so hard for this season?playing soccer, playing our game and playing together. If they want it, they can do it at state.?

Having lost 1-0 in double overtime to Burley Oct. 16 for the Great Basin West championship, Wood River had to come through the back door and win three playoff games last week.

The Wolverines throttled Minico of Rupert 6-0 last Tuesday, then won a tough 2-0 game over Preston at Burley Thursday, and survived a 3-1 victory over Bonneville in pouring, freezing rain Saturday over at windy Pocatello.

Junior Austin McCann scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Preston, the first coming in the 10th minute on a 20-yard cannon into the upper left corner, and the second coming in the 43rd minute, from Ted Dankanyin.

Wood River dominated, according to Swain, with an 18-3 advantage in shots and an 8-0 corner kick edge. Swain said, ?Preston is a big, strong athletic team. It was a very physical game. The refs were giving out yellow cards like they were going out of style.?

Less than a minute remained in the game when a ruckus broke loose.

Swain said, ?Spencer (Cordovano) went in for a tackle with a Preston guy. They tumbled down and the Preston kid came back up and took a swing at Spencer. Spencer was trying to protect himself so he grabbed the jersey of the Preston player, then Sagen (co-captain Howard) came in all the way from sweeper and pushed the Preston kid.?

The referee intervened and three red-card game ejection violations were issued?to the Preston player who initiated the scrap, and to Cordovano and Howard. Swain said, ?The Preston coach came up to me later and apologized because his player initiated it.?

After the game, however, the state soccer commissioner was notified by Preston officials about the incident, and Preston urged that Howard be given a two-game suspension instead of the usual one-game suspension that goes with getting a red-card penalty.

Swain, ?Apparently they thought Sagen was a violent player from the way he came all the way in from sweeper. I disagreed. I think one game is appropriate, and that?s what I told our athletic director (Ron Martinez).?

Playing without Cordovano and Howard for Saturday?s state play-in game, Swain shuffled her line-up and thanked her lucky stars she had plenty of depth. ?Our bench has been playing very well,? she said.

She moved co-captain Ted Dankanyin back to Howard?s position of sweeper. She put Carl Jablonski up front at forward with senior Willie Meyers, teamed Byron Epp with McCann at the center midfield spots, and installed Taylor Sundali in Epp?s position of left midfielder.

The weather was miserable but Wood River?s defense excelled against Bonneville.

McCann tallied his team-leading 20th goal in the third minute, from Sundali, and Meyers made it 2-0 in the 13th minute on a feed from Jablonski. Nathaniel Garcia brought Bonneville back to within 2-1 in the 35th minute with a penalty kick.

Early in the second half, Bonneville?s comeback attempt was stalled when the Bees were slapped with a red card for a free kick encroachment. Meyers scored his second goal of the game and ninth of the season on a rebound in the 63rd minute.

?Willie has been on fire for us,? said Swain about the senior, who has six goals in the last seven games.

Swain acknowledged that Wood River might be under increased scrutiny at state?because of its success in the past, because of its exemplary record and #1 ranking in the poll and because of last week?s feisty end to the Preston game.

In addition, a couple of key Wood River players might be academically ineligible for state soccer, she said.

?We just have to play our game,? she said.

If Wood River beats Skyview, the key game would be a huge semi-final contest Friday against the winner of Thursday?s Burley-Sandpoint clash.

Great Basin Conference champion Burley (13-3-2) might be the underdog, since Sandpoint is still mindful of last year?s State 4A tournament?when Kuna stung Sandpoint 1-0 in the championship game and ended the Bulldogs? run of 73 straight wins and three consecutive state soccer titles.

Sandpoint (11-4-1) lost its district championship 1-0 to Moscow (13-4-1) on Thursday, thus dropping the rubber game of the season series to Moscow, then Sandpoint?s Bulldogs ousted Vallivue 3-0 in a playoff Saturday at Lewiston.

State 4A BOYS soccer

Thursday, Oct. 28
11:00 a.m. Moscow vs. Nampa (game #1)
11:00 a.m. Blackfoot vs. Century (game #2)
2:00 p.m. Skyview vs. Wood River (game #3)
2:00 p.m. Burley vs. Sandpoint (game #4)

Friday, Oct. 29
11:00 a.m. Loser #1 vs. loser #2
11:00 a.m. Loser #3 vs. loser #4
2:00 p.m. Winner #1 vs. winner #2
2:00 p.m. Winner #3 vs. winner #4

Saturday, Oct. 30
10:30 a.m. Consolation fourth-place game
10:30 a.m. Third-place game
1:30 p.m. Championship game

Last year?s champion?Kuna 1-0 over Sandpoint.
Third place?Vallivue 10-2 over Blackfoot.
Consolation?Burley 3-2 over Moscow.

Location?Capital Soccer Complex, South Eagle Rd. and Lake Hazel Rd., Meridian (take Eagle Rd. exit off I-84 west of Boise, and go south)
General admission?$5 per day

Trophies?are awarded to the top four teams, with medals going to members of the first- and second-place teams.

Tie games?Games tied after 80 minutes of play will be settled by two 10-minute sudden death overtime periods. If games are still tied, alternating kicks from the penalty mark by five members from each team, most goals the winner. Finally, if games are still tied, sudden victory penalty kicks by five different players.

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