For seven years, Kevin Haspela has been the head coach of the HRV girls soccer program. And in those seven years, the Eagles have played the West Albany Bulldogs six times. They’ve lost five times, tied once, but never won.
That changed, however, last Saturday in Hood River, where HRV erased a 2-1 halftime deficit to come back and defeat the 6A school, 4-3, in what Haspela called a big win for the program.
“They are a strong program,” he said of the Bulldogs, who as of Tuesday morning have a 4-2 record and a No. 13 ranking amongst 6A schools. “It feels good to win a game that could go either way.”
All four goals came by way of set pieces for HRV — three corners and one free kick — which Haspela said was highly unusual. He highlighted, in particular, the opening goal by defender Ami Santillan in the 20th minute, scored on a free kick that forward Cielo Rivera took on a quick restart, catching West Albany off-guard.
“Scoring on four set-piece goals — and three corners — is unheard of,” he noted. “I was very happy with the Eagles’ tenacity and courage in the box today. Cielo’s quick restart on our first goal and Ami Santillan’s strong shot to the right side of the goal showed quick thinking and an attacking mindset.”
In a matter of four minutes though, West Albany would tie the game and then grab a one-point lead capitalizing on a defense breakdown and a poor clearance by HRV to go up 2-1.
“The team started strong Saturday, but was clearly deflated after West Albany scored,” Haspela remarked. “This probably led to their second goal as well. At halftime, we took some deep breaths and regrouped. Responding to adversity is huge in soccer and I am hoping the team internalized this lesson and can have improved self-awareness and resilience the next time we are down.”
Either the halftime talk or something else sparked the Eagles, who responded with three goals in 17 minutes to regain the lead.
In the 48th minute, a Rivera corner kick found its way into West Albany’s box, and in the confusion, the Bulldogs score an own goal to tie the game.
Seven minutes later, midfielder Avrie Van Tilburg scored by cleaning up a corner that fell into a scrum in the Bulldogs’ penalty area, giving the Eagles a 3-2 advantage.
Ten minutes after Van Tilburg’s strike, forward Halle Campos took advantage of another HRV corner kick, scoring after West Albany goalkeeper Kennedy Guilliot bobbled the ball, and pushing the Eagles’ lead out to 4-2.
The Bulldogs made things interesting again in the 75th minute, when HRV keeper Vanessa Silva had trouble gripping the ball on a low-post shot that allowed West Albany to come within one, but HRV was able to weather the final few minutes for the win.
It was the first rainy match for HRV this season and Haspela noted that the weather had an impact on both teams.
“The weather certainly changed how the ball moved. The girls adjusted well to it by running quicker to passes and being sure to get their entire body behind the ball,” he explained. “West Albany’s third goal probably wouldn’t have happened on a dry day. Vanessa Silva couldn’t quite grip a low shot to the near post and it rolled in after her attempt. On the other hand, our fourth goal occurred when their keeper dropped an initial corner kick and Halle Campos followed closely to tap it in. So the weather affected both teams.”
HRV (4-1) will wrap up its nonconference schedule this week with some tough contests against La Salle (3-0-1) on Tuesday at home (results not available at press time) and at 6A Barlow (5-0) Thursday. The Eagles will then start their league schedule next Tuesday with a game at Pendleton (0-3).