Rex Putnam proves tough opponent in season opener

Hood River Valley High School varsity girls soccer hosted Rex Putnam Tuesday evening in the team’s season-opener. The 3-1 loss against the Kingsmen was a tough way to start their schedule; but the girls found some strong points to build on and the game will serve as a gauge of progress for the rest of the season.

After battling to keep a more cohesive Rex Putnam squad from scoring for much of the first half, the Eagles let two goals slip by in the last 11 minutes, including the second with only 10 seconds left in the half. After a quick pep talk in the shade, the girls came out for the second half visibly re-energized and with much more cohesive tactics.

Senior midfielder Kristin Lago scored the Eagles’ solo goal off a penalty kick caused by a Rex Putnam foul midway through the second half.

“We did have a couple of breakdowns which led to their goals and I am hoping that next time, we will be able to recover more quickly and contain and delay our opponents,” said coach Kevin Haspela. “I was happy with how well they rebounded mentally in the second half. We played smarter, made some better decisions with the ball and were able to generate some chances on goal.”

In his third year as head varsity coach, Haspela is taking aim at a three-peat Columbia River Conference title and is hoping to lead his squad deeper into the state playoffs than last year’s second-round overtime loss against Crescent Valley. To achieve those goals, he’s focusing with the team on keeping an organized backfield while developing a more dynamic and aggressive offensive strategy. Without any specific playmakers established yet this season, teamwork and communication are going to be a key to hanging with the state’s top teams as players find their grooves with one another and their positions through the season.

“We’re a pretty young team this year,” Haspela said. “We graduated some dominant seniors last year and are without the one or two players who want to run the show this year. That may be a blessing in disguise; it will force us to be more balanced and rely on everyone, rather than just one or two super strong players.”

Although second-half scoring Tuesday went 1-1, the Eagles controlled the pace of the period and showed great improvement over their first-half performance.

“I was pleased at their ability to dig deep in the second half and keep the match competitive,” Haspela said. “This was a positive learning experience for us and now we have more specific areas we’ll focus on.”

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