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Children participate in Dribble Oregon. (Photo by David Blair/Portland Timbers)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PENDLETON — A group of elementary-aged children chased a soccer ball on the court of the Round-Up Athletic Club, orange cones marking the edges of the “field.” The teams were split evenly by gender, but not by numbers, with nine girls facing off against four boys.

Quick math would hand the advantage to the young ladies, but an addition to the boys’ side made for more equitable teams. Standing twice as tall as any of his teammates was Brent Richards, a forward for the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer.


 
 
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By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PENDLETON — A full stadium is no longer in the works, but the Pendleton High School Athletic Renovation Project is still on its way to turning the practice field near the school into a multi-use sports facility after the awarding of two major grants this year.

The Community Sports Development Council presented Pendleton a synthetic turf field to install at the site, a grant worth several hundred thousand dollars. Along with a grant from the Wildhorse Foundation valued at $15,000, Pendleton High has made a dent in the more than $1 million project cost.


 
 
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Alexis Mendoza (12) avoids a Pleasant Hill defender. (Photo/AJ Mazzolini)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


BOARDMAN — Seconds after Jose Amaya struck a shot from the left corner of the goal box, a ball that would slice into the net for a goal, the Riverside Pirates mobbed the junior as he sprinted back to midfield. The Pirates’ soccer team was already ahead of Pleasant Hill before the score, but they knew a Billies’ comeback was out of the question now.

Riverside was able to dribble through the next 40 seconds without incident as the Pirates won their first-round playoff match 3-1 against Pleasant Hill on Tuesday in Boardman. Riverside advances to the quarterfinals of the Class 3A/2A/1A boys’ soccer state tournament and will play Westside Christian at home Saturday.


 
 
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Kayla Swarat dribbles past the Bucks' defense (Photo/Cassie White)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


HERMISTON — Not even a win against Pendleton on the last day of the season Tuesday would lift Hermiston above Hood River Valley for sole possession of the Columbia River Conference championship. But that didn’t stop the Bulldog girls from blasting the Bucks like the match counted for more than one win.

The Bulldogs (8-4-2, 5-1 CRC) caught fire early and stayed lit throughout the soccer match at Armand Larive Middle School in Hermiston to scorch Pendleton 8-0. The victory, coupled with a Hood River (6-5-1, 5-1 CRC) win over The Dalles Wahtonka also on Tuesday, means the two teams share the CRC crown with matching 5-1 records in conference play.


 
 
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By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PENDLETON — The Back 9 of the Hermiston boys’ soccer season had more traps in it than the Bulldogs would have liked. Following a conference tie and loss in consecutive matches in the last 10 days, Hermiston limped into the Columbia River Conference finale against Pendleton on Monday needing a boost.

The Bulldogs (10-1-2, 3-1-1 CRC) delivered. A 6-0 thrashing of the Buckaroos (1-9-4, 0-5-1 CRC) shone out like a beacon for Hermiston, a message not just to the rest of Class 5A soccer but to the boys behind the purple jerseys as well.

The Bulldogs still have bite
.


 
 
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Lollo Jansson kicks the ball upfield for Hermiston. (Photo/Cassie White)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


HERMISTON — The magic number was four for Hermiston against Hood River Valley on Thursday. Four offensive goals would put the Bulldogs above any scoring output for the Eagles all season. Four would almost certainly give Hermiston the win.

The Hermiston girls’ soccer team got half of that in the match’s first 12 minutes at Sandstone Middle School in Hermiston and would go on to complete the quad and the victory 4-1. The Eagles, purveyors of the low-scoring contest, lost not only the match but their hold on the conference’s peak.


 
 
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By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


HERMISTON — The soccer playing boys from Hermiston High can still label themselves undefeated after Thursday’s meeting with The Dalles Wahtonka. But that doesn’t mean they left the pitch at Sandstone Middle School without a new black eye on their season record.

A 61st-minute, corner-kick goal lifted the Eagle Indians to a 2-2 tie with the Bulldogs, the Columbia River Conference leaders. The stunner changes the dynamic of the league race for Hermiston (9-0-2, 3-0-1 CRC), which has two matches remaining on the season including the clincher against Hood River Valley on Saturday.


 
 
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Mikaela Rodriguez dribbles through the Pendleton defense (Photo by EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PENDLETON — The pitch at Blue Mountain Community College’s soccer field might as well have slanted downhill to one goal on Tuesday. Like pinball flippers in a lightning round, no matter how strongly or how often the Pendleton defenders sent the ball upfield away from their net, it always found its way back.

The Buckaroo girls’ soccer team did their best pinball wizard impersonation through halftime, holding a scoreless tie with Hermiston, but gravity soon caught up. A relentless Hermiston attack scored a trio of goals in an eight-minute span to drop the Bucks 3-0 in a Columbia River Conference match.


 
 
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Hermiston's Oscar Contreras (right) heads the ball. (Photo by EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


HERMISTON — The Hermiston boys’ soccer team picked up some important tips last season. Most notably, if they want to win the Columbia River Conference, the Bulldogs know that means they’ll have to get by the Hood River Valley Eagles.

Hermiston (8-0-1, 2-0 CRC) did Tuesday what it failed to do twice in 2011, namely beat the Eagles. The Bulldogs came out on top 2-1 at Sandstone Elementary School in Hermiston during the teams’ first meeting of the season, a Pedro Cadenas goal in the 77th minute providing the difference.

“We knew especially after last year tying them twice that we had to get the points on them somewhere,” Hermiston coach Rich Harshberger said. “And if not here, then we definitely would to have needed to get the points (in Hood River). It was huge for us to get this victory (at home).”


 
 
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PENDLETON — It’ll go down in the books as a tie, a 2-2 draw between the Pendleton and Umatilla boys in a soccer match. But that’s not what Rob Hillmick’s gut was telling him as he watched the final moments drain off the clock Saturday. Ties don’t feel that bad.

“Honestly and truly this kind of feels like a loss,” he said. “I mean we’ll get out of here with a tie, but you could see the way they were kicking the ball deep out of bounds there as soon as they scored that second goal. They were happy with a tie. They wanted to get out of here.”