Caged Panthers

March 25, 2014

By Neil Pierson

Matthew Richardson, Jason Twaddle score in Skyline soccer 2-1 win over Wenatchee

By Neil Pierson A Skyline High School wall of defenders successfully block a first-half free kick during a March 18 game against the Wenatchee Panthers. Skyline won, 2-1.

By Neil Pierson
A Skyline High School wall of defenders successfully block a first-half free kick during a March 18 game against the Wenatchee Panthers. Skyline won, 2-1.

Matthew Richardson isn’t tall, but he might have been the biggest player on the field for the Skyline High School last week.

Richardson scored the Spartans’ first goal, then assisted on Jason Twaddle’s tally midway through the second half as Skyline held off the Wenatchee Panthers, 2-1, in a March 18 nonleague boys soccer match at Spartan Stadium.

The 5-foot-1 sophomore forward is in his first year of varsity soccer, but he has two older brothers who’ve played for Skyline, including 2013 graduate Daniel Richardson.

“He just said, ‘You’re going to get hit,’ so I got ready for it,” Matthew said of Daniel. “I’ve got hit a couple times, but you’ve got to learn. You’ll learn to play with the bigger players.”

Against Wenatchee, Richardson’s impact was undeniable. The Spartans struggled to create a consistent attack in the first half, and then were forced into comeback mode after Giovanni Soto scored for the Panthers in the 49th minute.

It took only five minutes for Skyline (1-0-1) to get the equalizer. The Spartans sent a dangerous cross into the penalty area, and when Wenatchee goalkeeper Adrian Villanueva couldn’t corral the ball, Richardson kicked it into the empty net.

“He fumbled it, and I was just in the right place at the right time, put it away,” Richardson said.

In the 65th minute, Richardson forced a strong save from Villaneuva. Seconds later, he drilled a long shot off the crossbar, and Twaddle was there to head in the rebound for the game-winning goal.

“I always love winning it for the team,” Twaddle said. “It’s a good time.”

The first half wasn’t without chances, but neither team was able to capitalize.

The best chance for a breakthrough came in the 13th minute. Skyline’s Mason Prendergast was tripped in the box and earned a penalty kick, but defender Nick Morgan sent his shot wide to the right.

Overall, the Spartans weren’t happy with the way their offense performed early on. It didn’t help that forward Nihar Baxi and midfielder Sean Curtis were out with injuries, depleting the team’s depth.

“We started distributing on the ground, which is good, and we actually started making chances, which is the best part,” Twaddle said.

“I think we just need to learn how to play as a team,” Richardson added. “We’re playing too much kickball. Just keep it on the ground, pass our way to goal and then just finish it off.”

Wenatchee also had opportunities for goals, but Skyline sophomore keeper Alex Appel stood tall. He had a key save in the 26th minute, successfully collected some dangerous balls behind the defense, and organized his teammates on several set pieces.

“He’s been doing great,” Twaddle said of Appel. “He’s been nervous, but he’s been able to pursue a good career so far.”

The Spartans saw several key players graduate from last year’s squad that won the Class 4A KingCo Conference title and advanced to the state tournament. They opened the season with a 1-1 draw against visiting Camas, so the results have been favorable even if the chemistry hasn’t always been there.

Skyline opens conference play at home March 28 against Newport.

“Sometimes, we’re not on the same page,” Twaddle said. “If we get on the same page, then we’ll work better as a team.”

“I didn’t think we really played well tonight,” Richardson said, “but we got the result in the end, which is what counts.”

 

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