WALLA WALLA — A pair of freshmen came up big for Walla Walla Community College’s men’s soccer team Saturday afternoon during an NWAACC quarterfinal match against Highline at Warrior Field.
Marco Acevedo sent a left-footed volley off a free kick from Mikey Ramos into the back of the Thunderbirds’ goal with 8:24 remaining in regulation time to give the defending NWAACC champions a 1-0 victory and a berth in the NWAACC semifinals.
The Warriors, who are ranked No. 4 in the latest NWAACC poll, improved their record to 13-3-1.
Next Saturday’s semifinal matches and Sunday’s championship and consolation contests will be played at StarFire Stadium in Seattle.
The Thunderbirds’ season ended with an 10-9-3 mark.
It seemed fitting that Ramos and Acevedo would team up for the only goal of the contest because they were the top two Walla Walla scorers during the regular season. Ramos was third in the NWAACC with 14 goals and led the conference with nine assists. Acevedo scored 10 goals, tied for sixth, and added six assists.
The deciding free kick by Ramos came just seconds after the Thunderbirds’ Lonnie Wells was whistled for a foul. Ramos set up for the free boot on the left side of the pitch some 25 yards from goal and parallel to the top of the 18-yard box.
He knocked the ball into the goal area and on to the left shoe of a charging Acevedo, whose effort led to a wild celebration on the Warrior sideline and numerous congratulatory hugs from his teammates on the pitch.
"He’s a goal scorer," WWCC coach Chad Bodnar said. "He’s one of those guys that can disappear for 80 minutes, then finish one chance — and he did that today.
"We tried to get numbers in the box to try to make things happen," Bodnar said.
The strategy resulted in the only goal of the afternoon.
Both teams had their share of opportunities throughout the game and played on relatively even terms as reflected by an 11-7 WWCC advantage in shots.
"They’re a lot like Wenatchee," Bodnar said of the Thunderbirds. "They’re a good team going forward. We knew that coming in. Our back line did a pretty good job.
"To have nine freshman on the field and reach an NWAACC semifinal? I’m proud of them for that," Bodnar said.