Sometimes the hardest losses to take are the ones you know you could have won -- especially when all you know how to do is win.
HRV's boys soccer team finally met its match Saturday, Nov. 10 in a 2-1 state quarterfinal loss to Lakeridge at Lake Oswego Community Stadium.
But it wasn't for lack of trying.
"We were right there and we showed we were good enough to be in the final four," coach Doug Beveridge said. "We didn't even play our best game and we were still in it till the very end."
The Eagles came into the game riding a two-week high that included three historic wins, having beaten Central Catholic for the Mt. Hood Conference title on Oct. 27; Madison in the first round of state on Oct. 30; and Crescent Valley last Tuesday.
They came into Saturday’s game with confidence, poise and hopes of reaching the state final four. They had experience, strength and hundreds of fans to back them up.
Unfortunately for HRV, so did Lakeridge, which also brought with it a vital intangible -- the home-field advantage.
"For some reason, we just didn't look confident out there," Beveridge said. "Part of it was the field and part of it was (the other team's) physical play."
The Pacers were noticeably at home on the fast, high-bouncing turf, as they controlled the ball effortlessly on both ends with deft touches and crisp one-touch passes -- much as the Eagles have done all season on grass.
After an evenly matched first half that provided neither team with more than a few chances, Pacers center midfielder Tom Marks outwilled the HRV defense and raced into the box to head in a cross with just six minutes left.
Marks controlled the tempo in both halves and brought an intensity to the game that HRV had difficulty adjusting to. Whatever his team needed, Marks seemed to provide on cue.
Just when the momentum appeared to shift HRV’s way -- after Corey Vandlac sent home a pass from Alex Ponce to tie the game two minutes into the second half -- Marks turned on the afterburners.
Less than 30 seconds after Vandlac's goal, Marks pounced on a poor defensive clearance and put the Pacers back ahead to stay.
"That goal really hurt us," Beveridge said. "One of the keys in big games like this is to keep up the intensity after a goal, whether you or the other team scores.
"It's the most critical time, and in that situation, they hustled to the ball and we didn't."
Despite the deflating goal, HRV knew it still had an entire half to play. Midfielders Josh Kitts, Jordan Thompson and Matt Dallman continued to pressure the Pacer defense and sent dangerous balls into the box all second half.
Defenders Ben Saur, John Wall, Andy Holmson and Nestor Elisea consistently denied the Pacers from taking shots in the box, but when they did, Rafael Mondragon was there to snuff them out. Mondragon's desire alone kept at least one Pacer shot out of the net.
But HRV's standout Saturday was Dallman. He was all over the field, boosting his intensity to try and match Marks. He took every freekick, corner kick and throw-in in the second half, not to mention unleashing a 25-yard bullet with three minutes left that sailed just over the bar -- along with HRV's semifinal hopes.
In the end, the Pacers' experience and familiarity with the field proved to be the difference. But Beveridge was happy with his team's effort this game and throughout the season.
"We put up a great fight right to the end," he said.
Before the 2001 season, the HRV boys soccer team thought it had a chance to make some noise in the 4A state playoffs.
The Eagles believed if they could win the Mt. Hood Conference, they could earn a favorable draw and sneak up on a state powerhouse like Jesuit, Wilson or Southridge.
They still might get their chance, because after two rounds of the OSAA state soccer playoffs, the Eagles have something in common with each of these schools -- they're still alive.
HRV entered uncharted territory Tuesday, Nov. 6, qualifying for the quarterfinals with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Crescent Valley at Westside Elementary.
The win also made school history, as the Eagles became the first HRV soccer team ever to advance past the second round in 4A state play.
"I always felt like we were this good," coach Doug Beveridge said. "You don't know how good you are until you play the top teams, but every time the competition has gotten tougher, we've seemed to play tougher, too."
Alexander Ponce scored two first-half goals and delivered an assist to Corey Vandlac late in the second to propel the Eagles to their 16th win of the season.
Center defenders Ben Saur and John Wall protected the goal box well throughout the game, while goalkeeper Rafael Mondragon came up big time and again in the second half to preserve the win.
"Sometimes in those situations, you need a little luck. And Rafael just kept showing up in the right place at the right time," Beveridge said.
Outside fullbacks Nestor Elisea and Andy Holmson also had big games down the wings, both getting involved in the offensive and defensive ends.
Starting left fullback Arnolfo Santillan moved up to midfield and had a superb game in place of the injured Dereck Ponce.
Although he won't get an assist on the stat sheet, his most notable contribution was getting taken down in the box to set up an Alex Ponce penalty kick midway through the first half.
After a cross bounced around in the box, Santillan controlled the ball at the top of the box and turned toward the corner when the defender swept his legs out from under him. Ponce then buried the penalty kick in the left corner to make the score 1-0.
Crescent Valley came back to tie it 10 minutes later on Brandon Kirkbride's rocket blast from the top of the box that found its way into the right-side upper V.
But HRV kept the pressure on and broke through right before halftime when Ponce sent a sledgehammer strike from 30 yards. The ball hit the keeper in the hands, but the force of the shot was so great that the ball carried on into the net for a 2-1 halftime score.
The teams went back and forth throughout the second half, but the Eagles' superior defense and control of the midfield kept the Raiders from tying the match.
Josh Kitts, Matt Dallman and Jordan Thompson attacked every ball that entered the middle and retreated on defense to help slow a formidable CV counterattack. Only Mondragon, the crossbar and a little luck kept the Raiders from tying the score in the final 15 minutes.
After countless close calls, Ponce and Vandlac connected to ice the game with less than five minutes to play. The Eagles must maintain their focus if they hope to get past Lakeridge, who they will face in (last Saturday's) quarterfinal round at 5 p.m. at Lake Oswego High School.
The Pacers stand at 12-2-2 on the season and entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed from the Three Rivers Conference.
Beveridge has seen them play, but believes his team is up to the task.
"There's a feeling on this team that our job isn't done," he said. "We have a new goal now and that's making the final four."