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HRV girls earn first-ever trip to state

Strong defense, Meierbachtol's two goals lift Eagles to first-ever 4A state appearance

It was only fitting that the HRV girls soccer team would be facing Barlow for a chance to play in the state tournament.

Little did the Eagles know back on Oct. 8 that had they beaten the Bruins in their first meeting, there wouldn't have been any need for a playoff.

That was the game HRV allowed the Bruins to creep back into the match and tie the score at 3 in the waning minutes -- a game the players would like to forget.

Now they can.

As luck would have it, HRV got its chance to prove who was the better team, taking out Barlow 2-1 in a hard-fought defensive battle Oct. 27 at Parkrose High School.

Not only did the HRV players come away with a measure of pride after beating the pesky Bruins, they also earned the fourth Mt. Hood Conference seed in the state playoffs -- the first 4A state bid for the Eagles in their history.

"We really had to earn this win," coach Sue Farro said. "This is a history-making event, and we had to beat a really strong team to get it done."

Becca Meierbachtol, who was named to the all-conference team Monday, led the attack for the Eagles, scoring one goal in each half, while sister Elie spurred a superb second-half defensive effort along with Jody Gates, Lisa Tedford and Lindsay McClure.

All four defenders raised their level of play Saturday to outmuscle a well-orchestrated Barlow attack. They played big in the air and on the ground, and cleared away every ball that entered their half.

"Our defense played really tough together and that was a huge factor in us winning the game," Farro said. "They were so determined not to let anything get by, and turned away the Barlow attackers."

Senior goalkeeper Meghan Merz also played a strong game in net, allowing just one ball to get past her -- a sliding first-half shot off a low cross from the right side. Considering the muddy, slippery field conditions, permitting a lone goal was no minor accomplishment.

"Meghan played very tough in goal on Saturday," Farro said. "Barlow's keeper had a tough time controlling the ball, which led to our first goal, but Meghan didn't let the conditions affect her play."

Fellow seniors Mickie Halliday and Lindsay Benjamin also played with a sense of urgency, knowing that Saturday's match could be their last.

Both Halliday and Benjamin were actively involved on both sides of the ball, frustrating the Bruin defenders with quick passing, physical play and all-out hustle.

Acer Lopez, Anna Hidle and Brittany Reed did their part on the front line, maintaining pressure throughout the game, and creating numerous scoring opportunities -- one which resulted in a penalty kick at the six-minute mark of the second half, and proved to be the game winner.

But the real story on Saturday was the Eagles' inpenetrable second-half defense.

Central defenders Tedford and Elie Meierbachtol, were in postseason form, refusing to allow Barlow to develop an offensive rhythm. Both were rewarded for their quality defensive work on Monday with a spot on the all-conference team (Tedford 2nd team, Meierbachtol honorable mention).

Outside backs McClure and Gates played excellent position defense, forcing the Bruins into the corners, and denying any attempt to cross the ball into the middle.

Not to take away anything from Barlow; the Bruins were able to keep the ball in HRV's end for most of the second half. However, the Eagles' stellar defensive play allowed the Bruins only a handful of clean looks at the goal.

HRV will look to maintain its late-season momentum Nov. 3 at undefeated South Medford in the first round of the state playoffs.

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