By BEN MCCARTY
News staff writer
September 6, 2006
The Eagles boys’ soccer team finished last season on a down beat, losing to Redmond in a penalty shootout on the final day of the season.
With the loss, the Eagles were sent home, while Redmond advanced to the playoffs. With an injection of youth into the lineup this season, the Eagles hope to blaze a path into the playoffs this time around.
The road to the playoffs begins right away for this Eagles squad, as they begin the season without any non-conference games to ease into the new season.
“No preseason is tough,” head coach Doug Beveridge said. “You have to hit the ground running.”
Nonetheless, the Eagles have a good history in the Mt. Hood conference. The last time they played in the conference they won the league title.
The task of returning to the top won’t be easy though, as the team will face competition as, if not more, difficult than they saw in the Intermountain conference.
“The top teams in this conference as a tough as the Intermountain,” Beveridge said. “Every team is tough.”
As the team jumps into the new conference, Beveridge expects his young players to play key roles, and his veterans to provide leadership. Diego Diaz returns after a freshman season that saw him earn Intermountain all-conference honors, and Juan Villegas, Hernesto Marquez and Ceasar Hernandez are all expected to have a big part in the Eagles success this season.
“I think we are going to do pretty well this year,” Diaz said. “There are some pretty tough teams but we will give it our all.”
Diaz said that the team has been focusing on its defense during practice and that on offense the team simply needs to be sure to finish its shots.
“We can handle (the Mt. Hood Conference) as long as we play hard as a team,” senior Joel Romero said. “We can run but we need to improve our passing and talking to each other on the field.”
Central Catholic is a favorite to make a run at the conference championship again this year, which they won last season going 12-1-1, as they return all conference player of the year Peter Funatake, all conference goalkeeper Ben Summers, and conference coach of the year Steve Ancheta.
Barlow finished the season second to Central Catholic, but lost several key players to graduation and will have step up if hopes to challenge Central Catholic again.
Losses to graduation among the top teams in the conference, and the addition of an extra playoff spot to the league, leaves the door open for a scramble for last few playoff spots. That means that the Eagles, even though they may not go straight to the top of the conference, have a good spot at grabbing a playoff spot come season’s end.
Although the youth movement at Hood River Valley means that the team lacks some of the veteran leadership, Beveridge believes that what his team lacks in experience, it makes up in motivation.
“We have a good group of kids that are highly motivated,” he said. “I think we’re going to be real tough.”