After back-to-back state quarterfinal appearances for the Hood River Valley boys soccer program, HRV was unable to advance to the quarterfinals of the 5A Boys Soccer State Championship this season. The Eagles were knocked out of the state tournament in the first round by the Churchill Lancers.
In its lowest seeding in the past four seasons, HRV travelled to Churchill in Eugene as the 10th seed to face the seventh seeded Lancers on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
The 2018-19 boys soccer season came to an end for the boys Tuesday night when the Eagles fell to the Lancers by a final score of 3-2.
HRV grabbed ahold of momentum early on, as senior Jairo Ortiz scored the opening goal of the game off a rebound following a free kick in the 10th minute.
The Eagles maintained a 1-0 lead for a majority of the first half, but a couple of yellow cards slowed the tempo of the game down, allowing Churchill to settle down after an early scare by HRV with the goal by Ortiz.
With only a couple minutes left in the first half, Churchill found the back of the net on a free kick to put the game at 1-1 heading into halftime.
“The feeling on our side heading into half was good. We felt we were the better team,” said head coach Jaime Rivera. “But we had to make some changes at half because of a couple of yellow cards and that switched momentum into Churchill’s favor. We had no choice but to move Robby Running out of the midfield and into the forward position. That switch took a lot of our strengths as a team away and put more pressure on our backline.”
The score remained locked up at 1-1 until the midway point of the second half, when Churchill pulled away.
Churchill scored two goals in the span of five minutes to grow the Lancers lead to 3-1 midway into the second half.
“That second goal was really deflating, and I could see it in our players on the field,” said Rivera. The goal came off a freekick that the Eagles goalkeeper, Zachary Marble, was able to get a hand on, but the ball still found its way into the back of the net. “It was just really deflating and after that, we were in a battle with both the team and home crowd.”
The boys finished strong following the third goal of the game for Churchill, as junior Fabian Magana scored with three minutes left in the game to cut the Churchill lead to 3-2, “but we just ran out of time,” said Rivera.
“One or two costly errors at the end of the day is what kept us from advancing,” said Rivera. “There’s no question that we fought hard Tuesday night, but we did not play our best soccer against Churchill and that’s for sure.”
HRV ends the 2018-19 season with an 8-5-2 record and final OSAA state ranking of 10.
Six of the 20 boys on this year’s roster are seniors, including senior midfielder Running, who Rivera had much to say about following the first-round loss to Churchill.
“Robby left everything out on the field for this team and against Churchill, there were multiple times that he was on the ground and in the box fighting off defenders, just getting into the mix of all the action,” said Rivera. “This kid was a tremendous leader for our program over the past four years and especially during this last season. What a career for Running, and I hope that the leadership he has displayed to his young teammates this past season pay off in the next year or two.”
Running ends his high school career as a state champion (2015-16) and never failed to make the state tournament during his four-year varsity career.
Rafael Kenzo Nakanishi, Manuel Trejo, Ivan Carabantes, Damian Charco and Ortiz are the five other seniors on this year’s roster.
In a season full of ups and downs, which started with the team getting off to its worst start in five years at 1-3-1 and then going 7-2-2 in its final 11 game of the season, this group of boys set a good example for years to come, Rivera explained.
“Their resilience, this group of boys’ resilience was unmatched,” said Rivera. “There were many personnel changes and distractions this season, but this group we ended with was a strong, dedicated and teachable group of athletes that have set a good example for how our program should perform.”
This season was unlike the past four seasons in terms of team success. However, what this year did provide was the opportunity for Rivera and his staff to reevaluate the soccer program.
The 2013-17 era of dominance has ended, but hopes for another begin.
“You’ve got to find the silver lining in all of this,” said Rivera. “For my staff and I, we talked about it on the way home from Churchill that we’re automatically thrusted into thinking about next year. We are eager to get back to it and we do feel that we made the right decisions for our culture and program this season, and hope that people are going to remember what we did at the end of the season.”
HRV closed the regular season on a five-game winning streak, including a huge 2-1 home win versus The Dalles in the regular season finale to secure both second place in the intermountain conference and a spot in the 5A state tournament.
“We have a talented group of kids that’ll be on the roster next season and my staff and I are motivated about the future,” said Rivera. “Looking ahead helps to take the sting off the loss and before you know it we will be back on the field in August chasing success.”