WENATCHEE — Missael Lopez scored two goals as Walla Walla Community College defeated Wentachee Valley, 3-2, in a Northwest Athletic Conference men’s soccer makeup here on Monday.
Originally, the East Region match had been scheduled for Sept. 9, but hazardous air quality due to smoke from regional wildfires forced the postponement.
A week later, Lopez helped Walla Walla mount a 3-1 lead, but the Warriors had to hold off a late rally by Wenatchee.
“I’m proud of how the boys battled today,” Warriors coach Ben Rotert said. “It took the whole team as we picked up a few knocks and needed guys to step up and defend well under pressure during the last 10 minutes. It was a solid team win.”
Walla Walla (5-2 overall, 2-1 in the East) must hit the road again on Wednesday with a trip to Coeur D’Alene to face North Idaho. The Cardinals last played on Saturday, when they picked up a 4-1 win at Wenatchee.
On Monday, Lopez finished Walla Walla’s match with a regional-best seven goals on the season. Only Aaron Byrne, at Everett in the North Region, has more with eight.
At Wenatchee, the Walla Walla sophomore tallied his first goal 10 minutes into the first half, using a pass from classmate Cristian Torres to score from about 10 yards out for a 1-0 lead.
“We again started off strong,” Rotert said. “That’s our fourth or fifth game scoring within the first 10 minutes this year. It’s been a very strong aspect of our game, to give us the advantage early.”
Lopez and classmate Miguel Rodriguez each took shots at increasing their lead, but failed to convert before Wenatchee tied things up at the 30th minute.
The Knights took a free kick from about 45 yards and took advantage of a scramble that ensured after the Walla Walla defense failed to clear the ball. Omar Mendoza scored with an assist from Michael Raya.
Lopez put the Warriors back on top, 2-1, with a header shortly after halftime.
McLoughlin High School graduate Juan Martinez set up Lopez with a serve from nearby the corner in the 50th minute.
Freshman Freddy Rodriguez gave Walla Walla some cushion at 3-1 in the 66th minute, as he snuck behind the Wenatchee back line on another ball from Martinez.
Insurance soon proved vital as Wenatchee guard the Warriors off guard and Greysen Gilman made it a 3-2 game with more than 20 minutes still left, but Walla Walla held on to the end.
Warrior goalie Alex Grimaldo finished the match with seven saves.
“We were sloppy today with defending set pierces, and Wenatchee gave us some trouble in those,” Rotert said. “That’s something we will address moving forward. Also, our focus after taking leads needs to be better. Those are very fixable things, which is great and just takes focus from the guys.”