Photo by Adam Lapierre.
Sophomore Jaime Frias scored four goals in two games this week.
It was a good week for Hood River Valley varsity boys soccer. With only two weeks left in league play, the team needed to pick up key wins against The Dalles and Pendleton to stay in the running for the Columbia River Conference title and propel its state ranking into the top five. After Thursday’s win HRV moved from eighth to fifth in Oregon 5A rankings, which is increasingly important as seeding for the state playoffs approaches.
The Eagles hosted The Dalles-Wahtonka Tuesday and traveled to Pendleton Thursday for games the team was favored to win but needed to make a statement leading up to the most important game of the regular season next week against Hermiston (the other to top team in the CRC).
In both games this week, Jaime Frias proved to be a valuable investment for the team and Coach Jaime Rivera, who moved Frias up from the junior varsity squad last week. The sophomore forward scored twice — once in the first half and once in the second — against The Dalles to give the Eagles momentum in an otherwise evenly fought match. Chris Cardenas scored the team’s third goal late in the second half to shut down any chance of an Eagle-Indian comeback and claim a 3-0 shutout. Cardenas, Giovani Magana and Jose Muro were credited with assists on each of the goals.
Frias scored twice again on Thursday at Pendleton, with three more goals coming from Edgar Villegas, Magana and Cardenas in the 5-0 shutout win.
“We were looking for someone who could finish, and Jaime (Frias) is proving to be just that,” coach Jaime Rivera said after Thursday’s game. “We had our eye on him and knew he had skills; he just needed some time to catch up to the speed of the varsity level. And he’s there.”
Matched with a tenacious offense was an equally stubborn defense in both games, anchored by goalie Alonso Mendiola who tallied his second and third shutouts of the season.
“We have a lot of talent and potential this season,” said senior midfielder Sean Lund after Tuesday’s game. “We’ve been playing with passion, like we really want to win; and when we play like that we can beat any team in the state.”
This week’s action brings Hood River to 6-4-1 overall and 3-1 in the league with only two games remaining in the regular season. Next week’s matchup, Thursday 4 p.m. at Westside against Hermiston, is set to be the team’s most important game of the regular season.
The Bulldogs beat Hood River 2-0 on Oct. 9 in Hermiston and were on a nine-game winning streak until Thursday night, when the team played to a 2-2 tie against The Dalles-Wahtonka. If Hood River can beat Hermiston next week and TDW the following week, they will claim the conference title outright.
“They just grinded it out against us and didn’t give up the first time we played them,” senior Gerry Murillo said about the Oct. 9 game against Hermiston. “Even though we scored first, they played like they wanted it more. Playing them at home this time is going to be a big advantage. The bus ride out there threw us off. We’re not going to have to deal with that at home.”