ROYAL CITY — It was the “spring” — heavy quotes needed — opener for Royal and Ephrata soccer.
Spring in name only as mounds of snow surrounded David Nielsen Memorial and puddles of newly departed snow made for some creative corner kicks.
Despite the weather that won’t seem to pass for good, Royal earned a 1-0 win over the Class 2A Tigers.
“Our strategy was to try and slow them down and counter,” Ephrata head coach Ivan Garay said.
It looked like the Knights, fresh off third place in state last season, would run away with the affair after a goal in the second minute. A shot by Eliseo Romero zipped across the body of Ephrata goaltender Josh Benthem, struck the far post and nestled into the back of the net.
It was a circus shot that Garay had to see to believe.
“I’ve never seen the ball take an inside spin when it hit the pole,” he said.
To their credit, the Tigers settled into their defensive game plan for the rest of the evening. Benthem regrouped with four first-half saves, including some from point-blank range.
“Ephrata defended with 10 guys behind the ball and hoped that a long ball would give them an equalizer,” Royal head coach Jens Jensen said. “We were too slow and sloppy in possession and made it far too easy for them to bunker in and keep shots outside the penalty area.”
Corbin Sager had a late breakaway for a chance to tie the game, but his shot was about a foot wide.
“We have work to do,” Jensen said. “We have had a significant change in our defense this week and we are still auditioning options to solve it and the midfield is still sorting out how to play together and stay balanced.”
Score by halves
R 1 0 — 1
E 0 0 — 0
First half: 1, Eliseo Romero, R, (2:00).