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Dream season ends in state quarters

HRV junior midfielder Matt Dallman made a prediction before the 2001 boys soccer season. "We should win our conference," he said. "We have very strong expectations this year, and I'd say the state semifinals are realistic."

Dallman obviously knew what his team was capable of back in September, because when the final whistle of the season was blown, the Eagles had proven they belonged among the state's elite teams.

Their bid for the semifinals came up one goal short in a 2-1 state quarterfinal loss to Lakeridge on Nov. 10, but the team walked away from that game having advanced further than any other HRV soccer team in history.

The Eagles compiled a more-than-respectable 16-2 season record and left the field knowing they could compete with the best that Oregon high school soccer had to offer.

Had one or two bounces gone their way against Lakeridge, the Eagles may have had a chance to match up against eventual state champion Jesuit, which won the title Saturday by a score of 5-0 over Klamath Union.

But now they know what it takes to get there. Next time, they'll be ready.

Despite losing seven seniors, HRV's future appears bright. The Eagles aren't the only team that will be forced to cope with graduation, and judging by who will return next season, this team may be ready to take the next step. The team's top two scoring threats -- forwards Alexander Ponce and Corey Vandlac -- will be back, along with Ponce's playmaking brother, Dereck, as well as Dallman and a bevy of JV talent moving through the ranks.

Coach Doug Beveridge's biggest challenge next year will be to revamp the senior-dominated middle of the field, which was led by center midfielders Jordan Thompson and Josh Kitts, defenders Ben Saur, Nestor Elisea and Jon Wall, and goalkeeper Rafael Mondragon.

Thompson, Kitts, Saur, Elisea and Mondragon were all recognized by the Mt. Hood Conference for their play this season, and their absence will require the team to work even harder to develop cohesion for next season. But don't look for this resilient, highly competitive team to be intimidated by anyone.

The Eagles stood up to every challenge in 2001 and learned some valuable lessons that should keep them atop the conference standings for years to come -- whether in the Mt. Hood or Intermountain conference, a decision that will be made final on Dec. 3.

After two spirited battles this season, HRV hopes it can maintain its rivalry with Central Catholic, which was the only team besides Lakeridge to break down the Eagle machine.

Despite a humbling 3-0 loss to the Rams on Oct. 18 -- their only regular season loss -- HRV came back to prove which was the better team on Oct. 27, routing the Rams to the tune of 5-1 in the MHC first-place playoff game.

The win gave HRV the conference’s first seed heading into state tournament play, and guaranteed them a home game in the first round against Madison.

A 2-0 dismantling of the Senators set up a storied second-round matchup with Crescent Valley of Corvallis. HRV was able to pull away in the end for a 3-1 win, but was pushed to its physical and mental limits, being forced to turn away one scoring opportunity after another late in the game.

After getting through such a difficult test, the team was riding high and looked to capitalize on its momentum against Lakeridge. However, two defensive breakdowns and countless missed scoring opportunities -- not to mention a solid Pacer side -- put an end to the Eagles' run.

But not before the players sent a message to the rest of Oregon state that HRV soccer has officially arrived.

Over the course of the season Beveridge and assistant coach Peter Dallman helped the Eagles develop a quick yet methodical attack that very few teams could figure out.

The combination of rapid one-touch passes, magician-like ball skills and off-the-ball runs confused and frustrated opposing defenses to the point of surrender, and left them to wonder how this team of mostly undersized speed demons could dismantle them so thoroughly.

Opponents were often driven to ire, resulting in multiple yellow cards and ejections -- an advantage that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.

Like both Ponce brothers and Dallman, outside backs Arnolfo Santillan and Elisea were also able to make up for their smaller statures with heart.

What many of the Eagles lacked in size they made up for ten-fold with grit and determination. Many up-and-coming stars also made their mark off the bench this season, showing that desire overcomes size in almost every game scenario.

Todd Price, Jon Munk, Julio Loza, Alvaro Lara and Andy Holmson will all see extended minutes next season as the Eagles try to move beyond the quarters.

Junior goalkeeper Miguel Elias will likely see most of the time in net next season, while top JV goal scorer Sam Murrillo will be added to the mix to bolster the attack.

Beveridge also has a superb freshman team to draw players from -- a fact that will make HRV a force in whichever conference it lands next season, not to mention the state playoffs.

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