Wednesday, November 16, 2011/lk
Both the HRV boys and girls first round state soccer games went down to the wire Tuesday evening, but unfortunately for the Eagles and their fans, both teams wound up on the wrong end of the final score.
The Eagle boys game was as close as it could possibly be - and that's not an exaggeration.
The Hood River Valley High School varsity boys soccer team finished its season Tuesday evening with one of the closest, best nail-biting matches the school has seen in recent history.
The Eagles - finishing as Columbia River Conference co-champions after the regular season - hosted Rex Putnam in the first round of the state playoffs following a 2-1 play-in round victory last week against Franklin. And Putnam, fresh off a play-in game against The Dalles, finished its league season with an undefeated, 7-0 record in the Northwest Oregon Conference.
Under the lights of Henderson Stadium, the two teams met for a battle that ended with a 2-2 tie in regulation, no goals through two overtime periods and then an epic late-night shootout that lasted through nine players from each team before a winner had emerged.
"What can I say - it's a tough loss, boys; but there's no reason to hang your heads tonight," coach Jaime Rivera said to a clearly saddened, and exhausted, team after the shootout. "You guys played a beautiful game. You left it all out there on the field, and that's something to be very proud of. Sometimes it's just the way the ball bounces, and tonight it didn't go in our favor in the end."
The way the ball bounces indeed: After nine penalty kicks from Putnam and eight from Hood River, junior midfielder Jerry Murillo stepped up for the Eagles in a do-or-die situation. His kick was solid and straight on goal, but the ball bounced off the goalie's elbow and out of the goal.
In the end, it wasn't the shootout that did the boys in; it was two specific lapses in concentration.
Not long into the first half, senior Jose Ortiz struck first with a bullet of a shot from 30 yards off the goal. Surprised by the quick lead, the Eagles got caught off-guard and Putnam struck back almost immediately with a goal of their own to tie the game.
Again in the second half, with only minutes left to play, Hood River took the lead with a beautiful play set up with a drive by Ortiz in the middle to Chris Cardenas on the left wing, who beat two defenders and centered the ball to Edgar Villegas, who one-touched it into the net.
Ecstatic, the Eagles again lapsed and in about 30 seconds the game was tied at 2-2 and heading into overtime.
"There's no blame on anyone," Rivera said. "We would like to have won and still be in the playoffs, but the boys played a great game. They played the game the coaches asked them to play and, other than a couple lapses, everyone played great soccer."
In Corvallis, the Eagles girls suffered a loss that was just as tough, falling 3-2 in overtime.
Playing the underdog to No. 4 ranked Crescent Valley, the Eagles rallied to tie the game twice.
Trailing 1-0 at halftime the Eagles got a goal from Roxana Gomez seconds into the second half after the Eagles kicked the ball off deep into the Crescent Valley end.
An attack by Katie White forced Crescent Valley to clear the ball out for a short throw-in, which went into the box and was knocked in off the crossbar by Gomez.
Crescent Valley regained the lead seven minutes later when they scored off a corner kick.
However the Eagles still had some heroics left in them when Emily Thompson equalized in the final 10 minutes by following the rebound of her own shot.
Her first attempt bounced off the Crescent Valley keeper, but she followed it and put it in to the net to send the game to overtime.
Both teams were scoreless in the first 10-minute overtime, but Crescent Valley changed the balance of the game five minutes into the period when HRV goalkeeper Megan Winans and a Crescent Valley forward collided going for the ball in front of the HRV net.
Winans was sent off with a red card following the collision, while the Crescent Valley player received a yellow. The Eagles plugged Dominique Figueroa, who has been their second-half keeper in the rotation for much of the season, into the net, but lost a defender in the process.
Playing a man up, the Raiders pushed the advantage into the second overtime and finally found the net with seven minutes to play.
They were then able to play keep-away and bleed out the clock to prevent the Eagles from mounting a challenge over the final minutes.
"It was excellent team play and effort on the field. I am proud of how they played," said HRV coach Kevin Haspela. "It was an awesome soccer game."