No one likes to accept it, but nearly every high-school sports program must undergo a building year or two along the way.
At the beginning of this fall, the Hood River Valley girls soccer team was coming off the best season in team history — a 10-1-5 campaign that produced the program’s first-ever playoff win.
However, much of that success could be attributed to the team’s 10 seniors. And while the Eagles returned four key members from that team this year, things were obviously going to be different with eight new starters.
“We knew this would be a building year coming in,” said midfielder Anna Hidle, who is one of three key seniors who have officially handed over the torch to the underclassmen.
“We knew we would have to play hard every game if we wanted to make it to the playoffs. No one really expected it, but if we had gotten a couple breaks along the way, we would have been going,” she said.
Three games will forever stick out in the minds of coach Sue Farro and her players — three games that ended in a draw, but should have ended in victory.
HRV held the lead late in all three games (two vs. Mountain View; one vs. Redmond). But in a series of recurring nightmares over a two-week span, the Eagles allowed a game-tying goal in the final two minutes of each game.
As difficult as those outcomes were at the time, perhaps the most difficult pill to swallow was that if the Eagles had held on in just one of those three games, they would have qualified for the playoffs.
Instead, they finished in fifth place at 6-4-4 — a single point behind Mountain View for the fourth playoff seed.
“The ties were definitely frustrating, but we’re also a young team,” Farro said. “I know that the girls learned from it, and we won’t make the same mistakes next year.”
Farro’s team will go from having eight new starters this year to having eight returning starters next year.
However, the three starters they are losing — Acer Lopez, Lisa Tedford and Hidle — were undeniably the backbone of the team.
“The seniors kept it all together for us this year,” said freshman Justine Bryant, who tied for second on the team with nine goals scored.
“They have all been on varsity for three years, and we learned so much from them. We will be a different team next year without them, but that’s how it is every year, I guess.”
With the graduations of their other two leading scorers, Lopez (10) and Tedford (9), the Eagles will look to Bryant to shoulder much of the offensive load.
She will have help from junior midfielder Katie Flory, who scored eight goals this year; sophomore Jessica McMorran, who just completed her second year of varsity play; and sophomore Kaitlin Bauld.
Defensively, the Eagles will be led by Emily Sager, Jessica Ostler, Kelly Durkan, Jill Chance, Kristen Hedges and Alicia Friend.