HRV’s Round 1 playoff matchup with Ashland had all the makings of a tight game, as the teams were closely ranked and had similar win-loss records, but neither team was likely expecting what transpired on the pitch Wednesday night in Hood River.
Two 40-minute halves and two 10-minute overtime periods weren’t enough time to decide the winner of Wednesday’s 5A playoff showdown between the Eagles and Grizzlies — indeed, the two teams were so evenly matched, their defense so in-tune, it seemed as if all the time in the world wouldn’t make any difference as regulation, and then overtime expired with neither team able to score.
Forced to decide the game by penalty kicks, the Eagles fell behind early in the shootout, but battled back in the final frames as HRV keeper Vanessa Silva stoned Ashland’s final two shooters, and HRV shooters Jenissa Ramirez and Yahaira “Yaya” Chavarria made their shots to give HRV the victory and send the team to the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.
“This is what it’s all about. This is the most exciting game I’ve ever coached,” an animated Kevin Haspela, HRV’s head coach, said immediately following the game, as fans who had braved the cold weather to watch the game at Henderson Community Stadium poured onto the field to celebrate with the HRV players, mobbing Chavarria and Silva. “It was a good battle the whole game. I thought their team put their talent up front and they ran into our talent, which was our defense. They had some good looks, but Vanessa Silva, she’s the player of the match, as far as I’m concerned.”
HRV had more than a few scoring chances throughout the 90 minutes the two teams played, including a breakaway opportunity in the 18th minute of the second half by Cielo Rivera that was thwarted by a speedy Ashland defender who cut off the HRV attack. This followed a near goal in the fifth minute on an Ashland set piece as the ball rang off the cross bar on a redirected ball, but didn’t cross HRV’s goal line. Silva was tested often in the game, and rose to the test every time, no more so than when she stoned Ashland in a one-versus-one situation, stopping a shot from six yards out with only 15 seconds left in the second half.
Haspela praised the defense, as well as the play of Rivera, who played as a forward Wednesday night, for keeping HRV alive in regulation and the overtime periods.
“We had a couple of good looks, but our defense has been solid and well-organized all game and all year, because we play a good team defense and I think it kept us in the game as long as it did,” he explained. “I think (Ashland) started to slow down and run out of gas at the end. Even though it could have gone either way, I think the momentum was going our way at the end.”
Haspela said he’s never had a game go to penalty kicks in his six years as the HRV coach — although last year’s Round 1 playoff game against Wilsonville nearly did — but he and his players had prepared for the situation before Wednesday’s game.
“We practiced, we knew who we had, we knew who we wanted to take (the penalty shots),” he said.
Both teams met at the center of the pitch and faced the north goal, where Vanessa Silva had positioned herself as Ashland won the right to shoot first. HRV fans, who had been pounding the bleachers and raucously cheering for the Eagles all night, filtered down from the stands and leaned up against the stadium railing to get a better look at the drama unfolding on the north side of the field.
Ashland’s Mya Elder-Hammond went first and placed one beautifully in the far right side of the net that was beyond the reach of Silva, who then missed on her ensuing penalty kick to put HRV down 1-0. Silva turned around to make a diving save on Ashland’s next possession, stopping Lilli Patton’s shot. Mona Diaz stepped up to the line and delivered a kick beyond the reach of Ashland keeper Berekely Skuratowicz to make it 1-1, as her HRV teammates, who had concerned looks on their faces after the initial round, roared their approval.
Ashland made its next two kicks, and after Rivera scored on her PK in the third round, HRV found itself trailing once again as a rocket from Claire Davies rang off the crossbar to put HRV behind, 3-2. But, in a do-or-die situation, Silva rose to the occasion once again, saving a shot from Ashland’s Viginia Cotton. HRV’s Jenissa Ramirez then scored in the fifth round to send the shootout into sudden death.
Ashland’s Hailee Hayes stepped up to the line and delivered a kick to the left side of the net, but Silva was prepared, making another diving save. With both teams tied, it was Chavarria’s turn to shoot and give HRV a chance to win. Chavarria connected, sending one past Skuratowicz’ outstretched hands and sending HRV into the quarterfinals once again.
The Eagles have their work cut out for them now, as they face the number one team in the state, Summit, this Saturday at noon down in Bend. HRV played Summit earlier in the season, losing 4-0, at a time when the team was struggling with some key injuries. Heading into Saturday’s game, HRV is banged up again following Wednesday night’s contest, with Halle Campos out with what was presumed to be a concussion, and Sindy Magana questionable with an ankle injury. But Haspela thinks his team is up to the test especially since Summit saw an HRV team earlier in the season that wasn’t playing to its full potential.
“I think that’s something in our favor going in. I think they’re expecting to walk their way into the state final, I imagine, and we’re focused on making history, and this is a great opportunity,” he said. “The girls aren’t afraid at all, they want to play, they want a chance to play them.”