The story of the Hoquiam boys soccer team continues tonight at Stewart Field when it navigates the field against University Prep of Seattle.
This state 1A quarterfinals matchup — the first-ever for Hoquiam — will be another clash of similarities on the turf on the banks of the Wishkah River. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and a trip to the state semifinals in Sumner is on the line.
“From what I know and heard, they are a very good possession-style team,” HHS head coach Fidel Sanchez said of the Pumas. “They play the ball well sideways. With a much wider field at Stewart Field, if we can maintain our defensive shape, like we did against Seattle Academy, I like our chances.”
The Grizzlies have parlayed a strong defense and possessive midfield into a winning combination over the last three weeks. Against Seattle Academy on Wednesday, Hoquiam did more than its share of absorbing the Cardinals’ offense. It nearly paid off before a last-second goal sent the match into overtime and a penalty kick shootout.
Sanchez noted that his team can’t do that against University Prep.
“If we can win the ball and transition into the offense, keeping them from maintaining possession, it should be a good game,” he added. “We can’t allow the midfielder to chase the ball for 40 minutes. We can’t ask the defense to hold on for 40 minutes. If we want a chance to win, we have to balance the defense and the transition offense more than we did on Wednesday.”
Sanchez said that one of the surprises over the last couple of weeks, including the district tournament and Wednesday’s state opener, was his team’s scoring. Senior midfielder Osiel Rivera has three goals in the last two matches and the Grizzlies have shown a more potent offensive punch recently.
One bit of an advantage for Hoquiam entering tonight’s match will be its experience. Sanchez noted that he’s seen his state-veteran players adjust and settle into the matches earlier and in better position than in years’ past.
“I can see it in their play; they’ve figured stuff out better,” he said. “Before, they would do something wrong and give up a goal before learning from that mistake. Now, they’re starting to understand how to place themselves tactically and they’ve shown the maturity of where they need to be at all times. That’s what is showing, the knowledge of playing in these types of games before.
“There are still a lot of firsts to come from this season,” Sanchez added. “We’ll have the play another phenomenal game defensively. Right now, we’re making sure we’re taking it over a game at a time.”
East County rivals Montesano (18-4) and Elma (10-8) will collide for the District IV Class 1A softball championship at approximately 3 p.m. at Centralia’s Fort Borst Park.
Both teams have already clinched berths in next week’s state tournament in Richland. The Bulldogs won the previous two meetings with their East County rivals, 1-0 and 11-2, earlier this month at Monte.
Hoquiam, meanwhile, will also be attempting to punch its ticket to Richland when the Grizzlies (16-4) take on Rochester at 11 a.m. The winner of that game also advances to state, while the loser is eliminated. The Hoquiam-Rochester winner opposes either Woodland or La Center at 3 p.m. at a seeding game to determine third and fourth places.
The previous Hoquiam-Rochester meetings were memorable, to put it mildly.
The Grizzlies swept the Warriors in a doubleheader at John Gable Park that more closely resembled a slow-pitch softball twin bill. Hoquiam wound up outslugging the Warriors, 19-13 and 14-13.
Hoquiam’s baseball team will head north to Anacortes for a regional baseball tournament today. As with all regional baseball tournaments, this is scheduled as a one-day, single-elimination affair.
The Grizzlies face Cedar Park Christian in the second semifinal at 1 p.m. Rochester meets Coupeville in the regional opener at 10 a.m.
The winners will collide for the regional championship at 4 p.m., with the victor advancing to the state semifinals May 30 in Yakima.