Most teams that win six games in a row have a tendency to get overconfident. But not the HRV boys soccer team.
The Eagles have bigger fish to fry than the two sardines they swallowed up this week.
Looking ahead to next week’s playoffs, the 11-1-2 Eagles were merely baiting the hook when they took down league bottom-feeders Pendleton (2-1) on Tuesday and Crook County (4-0) on Thursday.
“We’ve got the skill, but we need to hustle more,” said senior forward Jon Munk, who scored his second goal of the season in Thursday’s shutout. “We have it most days, but it hasn’t been there the past couple games. We’ll need to get back to playing that way for playoffs.”
Munk and the Eagles — who emerged as the Intermountain Conference’s No. 2 seed — learned Thursday that they will host the Valley Conference No. 3 seed, North Salem, in the first round of state on Nov. 2.
But home game or not, coach Doug Beveridge and the Eagles know that there is still much work to be done.
“We’re going to go at it pretty hard in practice this week,” said the second-year head coach. “It’s going to be an intense week of preparation so we can make a run for the roses.”
The good news for HRV is that they wound up in the bottom half of the 4A bracket — far away from the Metro Conference’s top seed, Jesuit, which is ranked No. 1 in the latest AP state poll.
However, no matter where they wind up, the Eagles won’t be assured of an easy road.
If they can match last year’s performance and advance past the first three rounds, they may have to face either Southridge, the No. 2 seed from Metro (ranked No. 3 in the state), or former rival Central Catholic, the Mt. Hood Conference’s No. 1 seed, which is ranked No. 9 in the state.
But the players are confident that they have seen enough quality competition in the IMC to prepare them for the long, winding road to the Nov. 16 finals.
“We move the ball better than any other team in the IMC,” said senior striker Corey Vandlac, who scored once versus Pendleton and twice against Crook County to raise his team-leading season total to 14 goals.
“Losing to Remond (Oct. 8) was a wake-up call for us, and the Mountain View game (Oct. 19) showed us that we have to play the entire game as a team. If we do what we know how to do, we’re going to be fine,” he said.
Vandlac also commented on the team’s advantage of having great depth on the front line.
“We’re able to switch it around a lot better up front this year compared to last year,” he said in reference to Munk, juniors Jake Pruitt and Alex Ponce, freshman Obed Garduño and sophomore Jorge Hernandez, who scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday.
“Being able to bring in quality guys off the bench helps keep everyone fresh, and that helps us keep up the pressure late in the game,” Vandlac said.
Late-game pressure is one thing the Eagles were lacking in this week’s two wins, according to Pruitt, the team’s third leading scorer with four goals.
“We should have won by a lot more over Pendleton. We were just slackin’,” he said. “There were so many shots that game. We just need more conditioning.”
Junior midfielder Todd Price agreed that the Eagles have some things to iron out before their state playoff run begins next Saturday.
“We were out of sync with our passing against Pendleton,” he said. “It definitely wasn’t our best effort. But a lot of that was due to travel. That won’t be as much of an issue in the first round or two because we’ll be playing at home.”
Beginning Sunday, HRV will practice every day until the Nov. 2 showdown with North Salem. Game time will be announced early next week.