Washington edges No. 1 Bunn, advances to fourth round

Published 9:04 pm Thursday, November 10, 2016

BUNN — Last time Washington and Bunn met, the Pam Pack thrashed the Wildcats 7-1 in the second round of last year’s playoffs.

Things went differently this year in the third-round meeting between the two sides. They battled through 57 minutes of scoreless action before Eric Ruiz scored the first and only goal of the game.

Washington’s go-to set piece for a throw in in its attacking third is to have Ben McKeithan launch the ball into the box. This time, Ruiz was isolated, dribbled toward the penalty area, and ripped a shot that beat Bunn goalkeeper Jake Moore on the near side.

Once the twine bulged, Ruiz did a cartwheel, backflip and took off to celebrate with his teammates.


“(Set pieces) are key,” Pam Pack coach Jim Kozuch said. “Obviously, we want to have some diversity. Every now and then, we take it off and shorten it up. Obviously, that was a great way to isolate one of our players and it worked.”

While some spectators may have wondered if either side would score, Kozuch knew it was a matter of time. The Pam Pack had plenty of shots in a first half that it largely commanded.

“I did think we were going to score. I didn’t think it was going to be that way,” Kozuch said. “It was a nice little play that we ran right there, and obviously we had a little success.”

It wasn’t the only adaptation the Pam Pack had to make it the game. In an effort to neutralize Ben Husinko, who netted 49 goals for the Wildcats this season, the team took a slower and more calculated approach to its defense.

“I hated the way we played tonight. I’m not a big fan of the way we played, but when you’ve got a guy that scores 50 goals in a season like their player has, sometimes you’ve got to play a little chess game,” Kozuch said. “It’s sometimes ugly. At halftime, I told the guys we were in control. If we stick with it, we would be able to put one away. The first goal would win and it did.

“A lot of these teams, we’re not going to score a million goals on. The further you go, the better the teams get, the better the defenders get, so every little bit helps. Having that tool is great and we’re lucky to have it tonight.”

Like it or not, it clearly worked. Sophomore Cody Pinkham was tasked with marking Husinko, who didn’t find twine in the clean-sheet win.

Kevin Avilla had an astounding evening as the Pam Pack’s last line of defense. He came up with a few big saves in the final 10 minutes of the game, including one from point-blank range in the final minute.

Despite Washington controlling much of the first half, Bunn had its chances. The Wildcats had a smooth counterattack in the 20th minute. They had a goal waved off mere minutes later, too.

Washington now advances to play at Carrboro on Saturday. The third-seeded Jaguars trailed No. 2 East Duplin by one with less than 12 minutes to play, but managed to score twice to survive and advance.