Something the HRV boys soccer team has been unable to do the past three outings is play its game for the entire 80 minutes.
Tuesday against Hermiston was no different, but the Eagles overcame a rocky first half and played a flawless second frame to bury the Bulldogs 3-0.
Obed Garduño, Jake Pruitt and Matt Dallman each scored in a 20-minute span to give the Eagles their seventh win and keep them in the hunt for the Intermountain Conference’s top playoff seed.
“We’re still adjusting to having Matt up front,” senior co-captain Dereck Ponce said of the team’s new field formation. “But once we got comfortable with him running the attack, the goals just started to come in the second half.”
Ponce and the rest of the HRV attackers were able to overcome a slew of near misses and turn on the jets when they saw an opening.
“Lots of chances in the first half just didn’t go,” said Garduño, a freshman midfielder. “But we were touching the ball much better in the second half and we eventually broke through.”
Coach Doug Beveridge saw it the same way.
“These games may be close for awhile, but the better team usually comes out on top,” he said. “It may take an entire half, or it may take a couple minutes. But eventually, the other team cracks.”
HRV’s leading scorer Corey Vandlac got the scoring started Tesday with a brilliant through ball to Garduño, who buried it in the corner. About 15 minutes later, Dallman sent a well-timed pass into the box and Pruitt nailed it home for his fourth tally of the season.
Then, just five minutes later, Vandlac sent a cross to the penalty spot which Dallman half-vollied into the side netting.
“The pressure in the midfield second half was the key,” said sophomore defender Sean Rawson. “We were just quicker to the ball and won it in the air. That was the difference.”
The Eagles hope to get the offense rolling again today when they face first-place Mountain View in Bend. The Cougars (8-0-4) are still undefeated, but have found some bumps in the road.
“We’ve had a a few more ties than we would like,” said Cougars’ coach John Stockton, whose team faced second-place Redmond on Friday while HRV took on Summit. “We’ve lost some points because of those two ties with Hermiston and we’ll have to play our best from here on out to win the league.”
Mountain View makes very few mistakes and relies on a strong front-line presence from Cole McCool and Cam Sulkowski.
“The biggest thing for us is going to be slowing their attackers,” HRV defender Andy Holmson said. “They complement each other well, and we can’t give them any easy chances.”
Ponce agreed, and said the key to beating Mountain View today would be a strong effort versus Summit (2-7-2) on Friday.
“We need to get ahead of ‘em early so we can be 100 percent for Mountain View,” he said.
With first place still on the line, both teams know today’s game will be a dogfight.
“I expect a playoff-caliber game,” Stockton said. “For us to win, we will have to play the game of our lives.”