WENATCHEE, Wash. — Freddy Rodriguez converted a penalty kick for the WWCC men’s soccer team with the score tied in the 78th minute, enabling the first-place Warriors to pick up a 2-1 victory over second-place Wenatchee Valley in NWAC East Region action here on Wednesday.
Freddy Rodriguez, a Hermiston High graduate, had already assisted teammate Miguel Rodriguez, of Mac-Hi, in giving WWCC a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute.
Wenatchee later tied things up early in the second half, turning the match into a battle.
“I am incredibly proud of the guys today,” Warriors coach Ben Rotert said. “It was a tough test to come in and get a result at Wenatchee. They always give us a tough match so very happy to leave with three points (in the standings).”
WWCC (7-2-2 overall, 5-1-1 in the East) came away with its first win in two weeks on the road — having lost at Spokane on Sept. 22, and settled for a scoreless draw Saturday at Columbia Basin — and the Warriors finished yesterday with a four point edge over Wenatchee.
The Warriors next will wrap up this string of road trips with a rematch at winless Blue Mountain next Wednesday.
Edwin Romero’s tiebreaking goal in the 89th minute lifted the Warriors over Blue Mountain, 2-1, on Sept. 15 at WWCC.
The Warriors needed similar clutch performances to get by Wenatchee on Wednesday.
“We had a ton of guys step up and execute the little things right, the things that don’t go into the stat line,” Rotert said. “Earning free kicks, blocking shots, drawing penalties etc.
“That kind of commitment and team attitude was fantastic today and what got us through the day,” Rotert continued. “We still need to clean up and be more dangerous on set pieces on the attacking end.
“We are letting too many chances go to waste and need to capitalize on those moving into the final stretch of the season.”
The Warriors managed to get on the board in the 28th minute with the Miguel Rodriguez goal.
“Freddy Rodriguez picked the ball up in a wide position, danced around one Wenatchee defender and fired the ball across the six yard box,” Rotert said. “Edwin Romero missed the initial attempt in the middle of the goal, but sophomore Miguel Rodriguez was on the back post and finished from a tight angle as the ball trailed towards the end line.
“The first half didn’t see many other clear cut chances for either team.
“The second half started in a fury,” Rotert continued. “Walla Walla had two clear chances to score within the first three minutes. First, Romero created his own chance on the left flank that just missed.
“On the ensuing goal kick, Romero intercepted the Wenatchee keepers pass out and found Andres Arroyo on top of the box,” Rotert said. “His shot just missed the far corner as it the ball just dipped over the crossbar.
“Unfortunately, moments later, Wenatchee capitalized on a hand ball in the box from a poor WWCC clearance and leveled the game at 1-1 from the spot.”
WWCC goalie Alex Grimaldo finished with three saves as he helped shutout Wenatchee the rest of the way.
“The Warriors’ response was great and increased the pressure,” Rotert said. “Walla Walla finally broke through as Freshman Kevin Meraz-Rodriguez picked the ball up in a wide position, shrugged off a Wenatchee defenders foul.
“Meraz-Rodriguez continued to drive in the box and was brought down by the another Wenatchee defender, earning the penalty kick,” Rotert continued. “Sophomore captain Freddy Rodriguez stepped up and made it 2-1 in the 78th minute.
“Walla Walla was able to weather a late storm by Wenatchee and absorb pressure to get out with a 2-1 win.”