By Mike Weber
Special to the News
TUALATIN — The season of dreams finally came to an end Tuesday as the Hood River Valley girls soccer team lost its first game of the season, 5-1, to Tualatin in the third round of the state playoffs.
On the heels of last Saturday’s dramatic 3-2 shootout win over Westview, the Eagles tried to maintain their momentum against the third-ranked Timberwolves without Intermountain Conference Player of the Year, Becca Meierbachtol, who was sidelined with an injury to her left foot.
The senior-led Eagles made a valiant effort, too, holding the Pac-9 Conference champions to a 1-1 deadlock until the 30th minute. But the Timberwolves (12-4 overall) broke through just before halftime for a 2-1 lead. They then added three more goals midway through the second half to seal it.
“Trailing 2-1 at halftime, we still had a good chance to win, but we sure missed Becca’s playmaking ability,” said fifth-year head coach Sue Farro. “I’m sure that it would’ve been a much different outcome with her in the lineup tonight.”
Farro and the Eagles concluded their season with a remarkable 10-1-5 record, but still had to wonder what might have been if they had Meierbachtol in the lineup.
“We came into the game feeling pretty confident because we’ve been playing so well recently,” Farro said. “Tualatin is an excellent team, though, and they'll probably make it to the finals. They pass incredibly well and they’re undoubtedly the toughest team we’ve played this year.”
Tualatin, which has won eight straight Pac-9 titles, captured its 11th consecutive victory on Tuesday and will host West Linn in the quarterfinals today.
In order to advance, the Timberwolves will need another strong effort from forwards Sara McMenamin, Kelli Brackinreed and company. McMenamin, a sophomore, scored three goals Tuesday, while Brackinreed, a senior, scored one.
McMenamin scored her first goal on a header in the eighth minute to give Tualatin an early 1-0 lead. But the resilient Eagles responded six minutes later to tie it when junior midfielder Anna Hidle nailed a seven-yard blast off a pass from junior forward Acer Lopez.
The Eagles held the Tualatin strikers in check for most of the half, but in the 30th minute, Brackinreed fired a shot from 11 yards and the ball rolled past goalkeeper Becki Flory, who just missed on a diving save attempt.
HRV stayed within striking distance until midway through the second half, when Tualatin scored twice in eight minutes to go up 4-1 with just 15 minutes remaining.
Tualatin was able to break the Eagles down by controlling the tempo throughout the game and outshooting them 22-5. The game may have been more one-sided if it weren’t for a superb performance by Flory, who made 12 saves.
“Tualatin is a very good team, but I felt that we still had a chance to win at halftime,” Flory said. “We played our hearts out tonight, but we really needed Becca and I think it would’ve been a much different game if she was healthy and ready to play.”
Like Flory, Hidle remained positive about Tuesday’s effort.
“I’m glad I scored because it’s nice to avoid being shutout,” she said. “We have no reason to feel badly about losing to an excellent team like Tualatin. We felt like we could’ve made a comeback, but they just overpowered us in the second half.”
Coming into the game, HRV had given up just 14 goals, while scoring 57. Lopez led the team in scoring this year with 15 goals, while Meierbachtol had 12.
All results aside, the Eagles and their coach came away with plenty of positives from an enormously successful 2002 campaign.
“We accomplished nearly every goal that we were hoping for,” Farro said, “but of course we also wanted to continue a little farther in the playoffs.”
HRV will return just four players next year in its bid to win the Intermountain Conference title. Hidle, Lopez, Lisa Tedford and Jessica McMorran will be the only full-time varsity returnees.
Stay tuned for a season wrap-up in upcoming editions of the Hood River News.