EUGENE — The raindrops fell along with HRV’s state-title hopes Saturday when fourth-ranked Sheldon scored two early goals to knock the ninth-ranked Eagles out of the state quarterfinals for the second straight year.
Seniors Greg Erickson and Danny Williams each found the net in the game’s first 15 minutes to give the Irish a 2-0 win and their first-ever semifinal appearance, while denying HRV of the same.
“We hope to keep it up,” said Erickson, an all-Midwestern Conference striker. “Playing at home definitely helped us tonight.”
The Irish (16-0-1), who hosted No. 5 Southridge in the semifinals on Tuesday (results not available at press time), seized control of the game early, lighting up the scoreboard in the game’s first four minutes on a 20-yard strike from Erickson.
Then, just 10 minutes later, Williams rifled home a loose ball from the top of the box to stun
Alvaro Lara and the HRV defense.
“The two early goals were pretty tough to overcome mentally,” the sophomore center fullback said. “But we tried. We gave it our best for all 80 minutes and just wound up on the short end.”
Lara and his defensive mates, Andy Holmson, Arnulfo Santillan and Sean Rawson, managed to slow the fiery Irish attack in the second half, but the damage was already done.
“They came out with their guns loaded tonight,” said coach Doug Beveridge, whose Eagles were outshot 16-11. “They were quick to the ball all game and made us pay for our defensive miscues early.
“But we never gave up. It’s no shame to lose 2-0 to a team of that caliber,” he said.
Coming off a brilliant 3-2 win over Lincoln last Tuesday, HRV (13-2-2) was unable to find a rhythm until late in the first half Saturday, and played into the Irish’s hands early with an uncharacteristically marginal passing game.
“It wasn’t our best effort and it took us awhile to get our touches going on the fast turf,” said junior midfielder Alex Ponce, who is one of just five Eagle starters returning to the program next season.
“We gave away some chances, too, but they were still the better team,” he said.
The Irish, who haven’t lost since last year’s round of 16, beat Newberg (1-0) and Sunset (2-1) in much the same way over the tournament’s first two rounds, employing blazing team speed and a silent-but-deadly defensive trap.
Senior sweeper Luke Bellotti and sophomore goalkeeper Garrett Staples, both first-team all-conference representatives, shut down the high-speed HRV attack by staying in front of the ball while it was on the ground, and winning it when it was in the air.
Matt Dallman, Dereck Ponce and the Eagle attackers were knocking at the door the entire second half, but were unable to get a clean look at the goal.
“We played great besides the first 15 minutes,” senior forward Corey Vandlac said. “Of course we would have liked to advance further, but I’m still proud of what we did here the past two years.”
Vandlac led the Eagles in scoring each of the past two seasons, and helped Beveridge and the program reach previously unforeseeable heights.
“I’m going to take away plenty of positive memories from the past two seasons,” Vandlac said. “And I know the younger guys can keep it up.”
The two-time state quarterfinalists will be forced to enter battle next year without Vandlac and fellow all-Intermountain Conference second teamer Holmson, as well as two first-team all-conference midfielders, Dallman and Dereck Ponce.
Ponce’s brother, Alex, will help guide the offense along with Jake Pruitt, Tony Diaz, Todd Price and Sean Rawson, while Lara and goalkeeper Julio Loza will remain on the back line.
“There’s lots of talent going out, but we have lots of good players coming up, too,” Lara said. “My whole defense is gone now, but I think we can get back to the quarters again.”