COEUR D’ALENE — McLoughlin High School graduate Juan Martinez broke a muddy stalemate around the 36th minute and Walla Walla Community College picked up its third straight win with a 1-0 victory over North Idaho in their Northwest Athletic Conference men’s soccer action here on a soggy Wednesday.
Only two days after a 3-2 win at Wenatchee, the Warriors (6-2-0 overall, 3-1-0 in the East) face another big challenge.
Afternoon showers and a women’s soccer match beforehand present the Walla Walla and North Idaho men with a battered field.
But Walla Walla managed to string passes together and control the tempo. The Warriors outshot North Idaho, 11-3, though only Martinez hit the back of the net.
Meanwhile Walla Walla sophomore goalie Jorge Llerenas, in only his third start of the season, made a save to record the shutout.
“I thought today was one of our best performances of the year,” Warriors coach Ben Rotert said. “It was a solid team win. We were calm and connected a ton of passes on a tough service that saw many standing puddles on a soggy pitch. Credit to (North Idaho) as they were the most organized team we have faced this year and made it hard for us to break down.”
The Warriors will host their next match as Spokane (1-1-0 in the East) drops by on Saturday. The Sasquatch look to bounce back from a 1-0 loss at first-place Columbia Basin (4-0-0) on Tuesday.
Conditions at North Idaho on Wednesday forced Walla Walla to tap on a new source of offense after top-scorer Missael Lopez sent two or three long distance shots over the crossbar. Classmate Alex Sotelo later came close with a similar attempt.
Walla Walla finally broke through late in the first half when sophomore midfielder Dan Mende hooked up with Martinez on a feed that split the North Idaho back line, giving the Mac-Hi graduate a one-on-one oppositie Cardinals goalie Luis Hernandez. Martinez tucked the ball into a bottom corner.
“I was very proud of the boys as we played some great soccer today, highlighted by the goal we scored,” Rotert said. “Getting Juan into a great scoring position from a deeper midfield roll was awesome and fun to see the boys execute. It took a lot on multiple levels to score that goal.”
The Warriors then had to protect their slim lead for close to 55 minutes.
The second half followed a similar course, as Walla Walla controlled much of the action but failed to create many scoring opportunities as field conditions continued to deteriorate. The Warriors managed to get a few long-distance shots on target, forcing North Idaho to make saves, but the score never changed.
The pressure only mounted as Walla Walla defended against corners and free kicks in the closing minutes, but the Warrior held on.
“We can get complacent from time to time after we score and let teams back in the match right away,” Rotert said, “but I thought today we had solid energy for 90 minutes, and it showed with the win on a quick turnaround from the away match Monday.”