A feeling of optimism was prevalent on the HRV boys soccer team at the start of the 2002 season.
The program had just visited never-before-seen heights by reaching the 2001 state quarterfinals, and they were returning six starters, including their two leading scorers, Alex Ponce and Corey Vandlac.
Most of the returning players felt like this was to be their year, and the Eagles whole-heartedly believed they would be right back in the quarters. But this year, they wanted to take it a step further.
“The seniors wanted to prove that this year’s team was even better,” said senior midfielder Matt Dallman, who finished second on the team in scoring and landed on the all-Intermountain Conference first team along with senior center midfield mate, Dereck Ponce.
“We were really playing well at the end of the season, but I don’t know if we were as well prepared for the level of competition we saw in the quarters this year,” Dallman said.
The Eagles needed to play their best game of the year to overcome the self-proclaimed “team of destiny” from Sheldon, which went on to win the state title — or, more accurately, a co-championship with cross-town rival South Eugene after an epic 1-1 battle.
“We can still say we lost to the state champs,” joked second-year head coach Doug Beveridge, whose team fell to Sheldon 2-0 and finished with a 13-2-2 record. “No one on this team has anything to be disappointed about.
“We accomplished something for the program by reaching the quarterfinals for a second straight year, and I’m not sure if any other team besides us was in last year’s final eight as well.”
Upon further review, South-ridge, the No. 2 seed from the Metro, was the only team besides HRV to reach the quarters for two straight years — something the seniors will always remember.
“We would have liked to go further, but I’m still proud of what we did here the past two years,” said senior defender Arnulfo Santillan, who started nearly every game in that span. “I will take away a lot of great memories, and I hope the younger guys can keep it up.”
Underclassmen like Alvaro Lara, Julio Loza, Sean Rawson, Jake Pruitt, Alex Ponce, Tony Diaz, Todd Price, Jose Avila, Jorge Hernandez and Stephen Hanners will help carry the program next year as it looks to re-tool for another playoff run.
“We’ve got a lot of talent going out, but a lot of good guys coming up, too,” said Lara, a starting defender on both quarterfinal teams. “My whole defense is gone now, but I believe in who we have coming up next year.”
Beveridge is staring at a challenge next year as he tries to replace the 10 seniors that will be lost to graduation. Of those seniors, seven were full-time starters, and one (Mike Elias) started half the season in goal when Loza injured his knee.
All seven senior starters received Intermountain Conference recognition this season, with Dallman and Dereck Ponce on the first team, Andy Holmson and Vandlac on the second team, and Jon Munk and the Santillan brothers, Arnulfo and Joel, receiving honorable mention.
Junior midfielder Alex Ponce also received honorable mention during an injury-plagued season. Joining the seven all-leaguers at graduation will be Elias, Ben Connors and Daniel Chance.
“I think we really got people talking this year,” said Vandlac, the team’s leading scorer with 16 goals. “It would have been nice to take it a step further in the playoffs, but it was still a great run.”