WALLA WALLA - Rene Saldana's bookend goals four minutes into the game and with less than two minutes remaining provided all the Wa-Hi Blue Devil offense in a 2-0 non-conference soccer shutout of visiting Chiawana here Tuesday afternoon.
Saldana's first goal was set up by a Sean Williams rush down the right side. Williams drove the ball into the right corner where he turned and booted a centering cross, but sailed his pass too far. Wa-Hi, however, won control on the opposite side where Saldana took a quick pass just outside the center-left section of the 18-yard box. Saldana drove the box and let fly with a blast from 15 yards. The shot found nylon in the upper-left portion of the net, leaving Chiawana goalie Ariel Gonzalez watching at the center of the goal.
Saldana's second goal came late in the match, as Chiawana pressed on offense in an attempt to tie.
Wa-Hi's Jose Maya stole the ball on the Blue Devil side of midfield. Maya raced ahead in a 3-on-3 with Williams and Saldana at his sides.
Maya pushed the ball to Williams, who took it into the right corner where he passed back to Maya just inside 18-yard box. Maya then rolled a swift pass across the front of the goal, but beyond the reach of Riverhawk goalie Gustavo Zaragoza. Left alone, Saldana took the pass and gently pushed the ball into the net from two yards out.
"The first goal, I didn't even think about shooting. I just shot and scored a goal," Saldana said. "On the second, the other forward passed it to center and I only had to touch it in."
The second goal sealed the victory for the Blue Devils, but the first goal set the tone for the game.
"Goals are important no matter when they come," Wa-Hi coach Mike Washington said. "They can dictate play for you a little bit more, and give you a little bit more relaxation.
"But the thing is we've got to respond better from those goals, because the same thing happened to us against Moses Lake; we scored an early goal and then just kind of hung in there. We play well enough, but we've got to finish these teams off. We've got to get a second goal quick and really put them away."
Shots on goal for the game were nearly even. Wa-Hi put eight shots on versus seven for Chiawana.
Blue Devil goal keeper Andrew Glasser made five saves. Chiawana's Gonzalez registered both Riverhawk saves.
"Give credit to Walla Walla. They're a better team than we are," Chiawana coach Rich Zoller said. "I thought we worked hard, but they never let us get into any type of attacking rhythm. It felt like we were just chasing the ball the whole game."
Washington admitted that was by design.
"We've got to play them again in conference," Washington said, "so we didn't want to show them too much. We played with some extra midfield players this time, and played a little bit more defensive. The object was to stifle them a little bit, and get them a bit frustrated."
Wa-Hi had a chance earlier in the game to finish off the Riverhawks on a direct kick at the 9:32 mark of the second half. Brian Lopez was grabbed on a breakaway just inside the 18-yard line. Wa-Hi's Juan Rojero took the penalty kick, but fired it high, missing the crossbar by three feet dead-center.
The loss drops Chiawana to 1-1 on the season.
Wa-Hi improves to 2-0. They are 1-0 in conference with last week's victory over Moses Lake.
The Blue Devils play again Saturday in a non-conference match at Eastmont.