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Knights defeat Wapato in SCAC tournament

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | May 4, 2024 2:30 PM

ROYAL CITY — The Knights opened the South Central Athletic Conference district tournament with a win over Wapato on Thursday, taking down the Wolves in a 2-0 victory to advance to the district semifinals.

“The deliveries were better, the corners were better, the free kicks were better,” Royal head coach Jens Jensen said. “Some of the other guys we moved around did a good job, so I’m happy.”

Royal senior Santiago Gonzalez scored the first goal of the game in the 21st minute, receiving a through ball from teammate Ernesto Deras and fired off a shot that grazed off the fingertips of the outstretched Wapato goalkeeper for a 1-0 Royal lead.

“We won a 50-50, and (Deras) gave me a ball; it was a great through ball, and I just felt like it was a good time to shoot it,” Gonzalez said. 

Wapato had a penalty kick attempt in the 34th minute after a Royal handball, which would have tied the game at one, but the shot missed to the left of the net. Instead, Royal went into halftime with a 1-0 lead.

Gonzalez scored again in the 58th minute, this time on a penalty shot after sophomore Victor Aquino was tackled in the penalty area. His first attempt on the penalty was wiped off due to an encroachment call on the Knights, but the senior proceeded to bury the ball in the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.

“I take a lot of practice on those (penalty kicks),” Gonzalez said. “I have bruises on my feet from taking those (penalty kicks). It’s just another day for me.”

Royal goalkeeper Alex Arceo posted the Knight’s ninth clean sheet of the season, featuring a handful of diving saves on Wapato shots.

“Pitbull, that’s what we call (Arceo) — Pitbull in the goal, (he had) some big saves,” Jensen said. “When we let guys go at the far post, assuming the ball is out, and those guys get there and head it back across the face of goal, that causes some trouble, but (Arcero) was there. Made big saves, and his guys really got it around him to clear the ball away.”

Down 1-0 after halftime, the Wolves controlled possession of the ball well in the second half, but couldn’t break through for a goal. After switching sides of the field at the half, Royal’s net was flipped to the east side of the field — staring directly into the evening sunset.

“They tried to put pressure because their backs were against the wall — they started to commit more, and as the game went on they committed more and more,” Jensen said. “For us, a lot of the struggling was looking into the sun, without a doubt … we did okay, but looking into the sun is difficult.”

Even with the win, Jensen said there are still some improvements that can be made.

“Today we played fine, but I don’t think that’s the best we can play,” Jensen said. “I don’t think we’re playing at the top, necessarily, of where we’re capable, but we’re playing good enough to grind out wins. If that’s what it is, then that’s what it is. Some good things happened today.”

Royal travels to face Highland on Tuesday, who won the SCAC (West) regular season title. The 15-2-1 Scotties defeated Connell 3-0 in the first round Thursday. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

Ian Bivona may be reached at ibivona@columbiabasinherald.com

Box score
WPT: 0-0 0
ROY: 1-1 2


Correction: Alex Arceo is a junior with Royal High.

    Royal senior Case Christensen (21) heads the ball back toward a Knight teammate in the first half of Thursday’s SCAC district tournament game against Wapato.
 
 
    Royal sophomore Victor Aquino (18) receives a pass from a teammate in the first half against Wapato on Thursday.
 
 
    Royal junior Alex Arceo, in neon green, leaps up to save the ball on a Wapato corner kick late in the second half.