Now that all the warm-up games are in the books, it’s time for the real season to begin.
The Hood River Valley boys soccer team extended its win streak to five games on Thursday with a 2-0 road win over Crook County. The Eagles’ second win this week also gave them plenty of momentum heading into the Nov. 1 playoff opener against either Lakeridge or Clackamas.
Alexander Ponce scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season, while Jorge Hernandez added his 14th strike, helping the Eagles move to 12-2 in the Intermountain Conference — just a shade better than last year’s finish of 11-1-2.
“We didn’t push it too hard against them,” said coach Doug Beveridge, whose team had beaten the Cowboys 4-0 back on Sept. 5. “They didn’t have many chances, and whatever offense they did have was snuffed out by Julio (Loza).”
The shutout was the second of the year for Loza, a senior who also started in the net last season for the Eagles. It was also the team’s fifth shutout in the IMC, which includes Tuesday’s 5-0 home win over last-place Pendleton.
Much as they did on Thursday, the Eagles thoroughly dominated the Buckaroos at Westside, scoring four goals in the first half — one each by Jake Pruitt and Stephen Hanners, and two by Ponce. Hernandez later added a second-half goal to put the game away.
“We’re doing what we’re supposed to do right now, which is to outplay the teams in our league,” Beveridge said. “But we don’t know what else is out there because the IMC isn’t that strong this year.”
Besides No. 1-ranked Redmond and HRV, the league only has two other competitive teams (Summit and Mountain View). Hermiston is on the bubble at 4-8-1, while Crook County, Pendleton and Bend have combined for four wins.
“Our first-round opponent may be better prepared for playoff soccer because of their schedule,” Beveridge said. “It’s almost as though we’re going in blind this year. But I truly believe that when we play our game, we can play with anyone.”
Beveridge said some injuries on defense (Sean Rawson, Lukas Berg) may be a factor for his team heading into the playoffs. He worries that the Eagles lack depth on defense, which necessitated the late-season addition of junior Alec Asbridge to the team.
“Alec wishes he had come out at the start of the season,” Beveridge said. “And now we really need him, so he’s going to give it a go.”
HRV will soon know its first-round opponent, but the date (Nov. 1) and the site (Westside Field) are already certain.