Warrior women race past Penguins

Walla Walla Community College's Marais Hicks (11) spreads her wings after helping the Warriors take flight by scoring the team's first goal during their Wednesday afternoon, November 7, 2012 playoff game against Clark Community College.

Walla Walla Community College's Marais Hicks (11) spreads her wings after helping the Warriors take flight by scoring the team's first goal during their Wednesday afternoon, November 7, 2012 playoff game against Clark Community College. Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.

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WALLA WALLA — Two goals within 30 seconds turned what had been a hard-fought, but one-sided, affair into a laugher Wednesday afternoon at the Walla Walla Community College soccer pitch.

Looking for its fourth consecutive NWAACC championship, third-ranked WWCC (12-1-3) entered Wednesday’s playoff match with Clark College (5-9) as an undeniable favorite and, although it took most of the game before the Warriors were able to put the Penguins away, they emerged the same with a 4-0 victory.

“It was a slow game for a playoff game and it was just kind of blah,” WWCC coach Chad Bodnar said.

The slow start wasn’t for a lack of trying — Walla Walla spent the majority of the first half and the game on Clark’s side of the pitch.

The Warriors launched nine shots on goal in the first half, but just one found the back of the net.

Marais Hicks got WWCC on the board with an unassisted goal from the top of the penalty box in the 25th minute.

“We came out and got a goal in the first half and I think that’s what we needed to do,” Bodnar said. “And then it was just kind of, we were pretty comfortable the whole time.”

Comfortable indeed.

The Warriors allowed just one shot on goal in the second half while launching 10 of their own.

Walla Walla didn’t find the back of the net again until the 74th minute, when forward Paige Pontarolo launched a cross from teammate Peyton Moon into the upper-right corner of the Clark goal.

Exactly 30 seconds later, Moon scored after Julie Belden’s pass set her up with a breakaway chance.

The back-to-back goals deflated the Penguins, who had been playing a man down after Kaylene Abbey took a red card for a foul and abusive language in the 35th minute.

“It was always good to get the second one because it kind of takes the edge off the game,” Bodnar said. “Just a slow, blah game, but that’s fine with us because we just want to move on and we’re back in the quarterfinals, which is where we wanted to be.”

Gabriella Kurz added the final goal of the match in the 85th minute.

“Our field is pretty beat up right now, it’s bumpy,” Bodnar said when asked about his team’s lack of production early in the match. “We’ve done a lot of work this week just because it’s rained so much and we’ve had all our games at home at the end of the season. It’s bumpy and it’s hard to finish in the box. It’s just a hard surface to play on right now.”

The game marked the first time since Bodnar began coaching the Warriors in 2003 that they have not won the NWAACC East Region and the first time they have not had a bye into the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.

“But it’s like the same thing I just told the girls,” Bodnar said, “that doesn’t matter anymore because we’re back in the quarterfinal on Saturday. The fact that we started a little slow this season and dropped a game that we shouldn’t have, that doesn’t matter anymore.”

Walla Walla visits North Region champion Everett (11-2-2) Saturday for a quarterfinal match.

“Nobody will remember that if we go on to win the final,” Bodnar said of the team’s comparatively slow start to the season. “We’ve got a clean slate that way, and credit to the kids for coming out playing and doing what we needed to do.”

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