WALLA WALLA - The Wa-Hi soccer team turned up victorious after a 25-7 shot advantage in regulation and two overtimes, before goal kicks in the deciding shootout favored them, 4-2.
The shootout victory gave the Blue Devils a 1-0 season-opening win over the Hanford Falcons Monday at Wa-Hi.
"The game was a bit awkward and stupid when we get all those chances and can't finish," Wa-Hi coach Mike Washington said. "Maybe it is just early in the season and dealing with the bad wind."
The hard-blowing wind and cold played a huge factor in the overall competition before the shootout at the end.
"I think part of our problem was the wind," Washington said. "And Hanford made it difficult for us. I think we did pretty much outplayed them the whole game, however."
In the shootout, Wa-Hi's Leonardo Pedroza angled his body right and kicked left into the corner past the Falcons' keeper Jacob Thiel to put the Blue Devils up 1-0.
Hanford's Mario Zarate then booted a shot past Wa-Hi keeper Jorge Mejia to tie it at 1-1.
A grounder into the left corner of the net off the foot of the Blue Devils' Kevin Escalante followed to make it 2-1, Wa-Hi.
Joe Ghirardo made good on a right corner shot for Hanford to tie again, this time at 2-2.
Then, Wa-Hi's Giovan Ruiz knocked a ball past a diving Thiel to make it 3-2 Wa-Hi.
A shot by the Falcons' Kelly Smith glanced off the left bar and out as the Blue Devils gained momentum.
Wa-Hi's Marcos Medina faked left and kicked one hard down the middle to increase the Blue Devils' lead to 4-2, and a diving stop by the Blue Devils' Mejia on the next Hanford kick clinched the 4-2 victory.
"Junior keeper Jorge Mejia has very little playing experience," Washington said, "but he did well for us when it counted and he will keep learning."
Leading up to the shootout, Wa-Hi outshot Hanford 4-2 in overtime, placing two shots on goal in the extra 10 minutes of competition.
In regulation, the Blue Devils outshot Hanford 21-5 and were led in shots by Medina and Ricardo Saldana.
"Marcos will continue to be a key player for us," Washington said. "(He has) a lot of speed, and good ball control up front. Ricardo is somebody we thought we'd give a chance up front, too, at forward, with his good ball control, and it worked out today."
The Wa-Hi defense gave up just seven shots - none on goal - in 90 minutes of action.
Washington was pleased with that effort.
"Our defensemen, Matt Wickham and David Lopez, played really well for us," Washington said. "They are going to be real keys for us as the season continues. They played the whole game and played well. We will eventually add David Woodrow-Salazar back, when he gets enough practices in and can then contribute as a defender."
Washington was hesitant to name players at the midfielder position, but did say "we really have a lot of speed at midfielder and we're going to use that to our advantage."
Washington said that the biggest difference between this year's team and last year's team is at goal keeper. Longtime Wa-Hi keeper Andrew Glaeser graduated and moved onto Oregon State University to continue his soccer career.
"Andrew will be missed at keeper, but hopefully the whole team will rally together and all play better," Washington said.
He also mentioned last year's team sported Jose Beleche and Shawn Williams, both forwards, who have moved on to play at Whitman College for Washington.
A third-place finish last year in the Big Nine Conference and being knocked out of the first round of the playoffs was somewhat disappointing for Wa-Hi.
"I'm hoping that we put that right this year and get better," Washington said. "We could do OK. We're not sure how the other teams are going to be, either. So that is something we'll have to look at.
"We need to control our own destiny better this season and be in that No. 1 spot in the conference heading into the playoffs," he said. "We need to finish at the top. The school has won only one conference title in soccer and we need another one. We also need to get into state and win. That would be new territory for us, as well."
When asked what the team will need to work on throughout the season, Washington had a quick reply.
"We have to put a team away," he said. "That's for sure. When we've got our chances to score, we've got to finish. We can't just keep teams in the game by not scoring. We need to control the games and the tempo.
"It is also going to big for us not get bullied around. That is what we need to do and that is what we have to do."
Wa-Hi next hosts Chiawana at 1 p.m. Saturday.