RIVERSIDE - The Grant Union soccer team had the goal in its sights against Riverside.
The Prospectors picked up a 4-3 win against the fifth-ranked team in the state Saturday, Oct. 4. The game snaps a five-game Pirate win streak and gives Grant Union seven wins in a row and six straight 3A Special District 5 wins. The Pros were ranked 10th in the state entering the game.
However, more impressive than the win was the improvement in shooting from the Pros. The team has been scoring two to three goals on nearly 30 shots in recent games. They took nine shots on Saturday and only six of those were on goal. Grant Union's shots on goal found their target 67 percent of the time, a vast improvement over previous games.
Grant Union coach Ken Purnell said the team stepped up when they needed to.
"It's really nice that they put the ball in the net and got it going when they should have against Umatilla and Riverside," Purnell said. "They're two of the toughest teams in the league and state. At the same time we can't let Culver or Irrigon get that close and not finish. We go on the road to them next time."
Although Grant Union played strong, the team allowed more shots than they took. The Pirates took 16 shots and had nine on goal.
Purnell said despite the win, he sees room for improvement.
"I'm very, very proud of how hard the kids played," Purnell said. "Riverside still showed us some things we need to work on. Riverside is a quality team. They had exceptional quickness and we need to make sure our backs on the wings stay ahead of our Phillip (Stevens), our deep defender."
On offense, Grant Union's Henrik Shia and Nathan Wunz continue to develop a great partnership. Shia earned an early goal at 9:35 after getting a pass from Wunz. Shia returned the favor 12 minutes later setting Wunz up for a goal of his own.
Despite strong offense a bad bound on a windy day gave Riverside a penalty kick and they capitalized to even the game 2-2. Grant Union's Francisco Ceja broke the tie before halftime. Ceja snuck the ball away from a Riverside midfielder and took it in for a solo goal and the Pros took a 3-2 lead into halftime.
Purnell said the Pros took the halftime break to discuss a weakness in the Riverside defense.
"At half we talked about the fact that the Riverside keeper liked to stay out at the top of the 18-yard box a lot of the time," Purnell said. "I told the kids we could take a shot from 30 to 40 yards and put it over his head."
Grant Union's Darren Frazier did exactly that slipping the ball into the goal in the 62nd minute of the game. Frazier's goal gave the Pros a two-goal cushion with under 20 minutes remaining in the game. Grant Union allowed one more in at the 76 minute mark, but held out the final four minutes for the victory.
Saturday's win is the first time Grant Union has won a game in Riverside and puts the Pros in a good position going into the second half of the season. They are currently undefeated and have outscored opponents 36-9 in the 3A Special District 5.
Grant Union faced Burns Tuesday, Oct. 7 in league play, but the game finished after deadline. They will now travel to face Umatilla at 12 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10. The Pros defeated Umatilla 7-3 at home Sept. 13.