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.
Hermiston gets Pendleton at home Tuesday while Hood River hosts The Dalles Wahtonka to finish the regular season. Both will be favored in their matchups. Should the season end with each teams’ conference record identical, the two would share the conference crown.
Getting past the Eagles was a major challenge first as the visitors had allowed only 14 goals all year. Hood River’s streak had run to five straight shutouts and no goals allowed in conference play before Thursday, including a 2-0 shutout against the Bulldogs.
But Hermiston struck fast and furious with a goal by Mikaela Rodriguez in the 10th minute on an assist from Lollo Jansson. Breana Berger went for the encore on a 30-yard strike into the top of the goal just two minutes later.
“This is what we want and we know Hood River is the team to beat,” Rodriguez said. “We had to capitalize on that and take this advantage at home field and get the win.”
Hood River’s Korey Cimock would bring the Eagles to within one goal in the 25th minute — only her team’s 11th goal of the season in 11 games — but Bulldog Maggie Coleman responded with a 25-yard free-kick goal a minute before the half.
When the Bulldogs put in another shot about half way through the second half — a Jansson goal — Hermiston was in the clear.
The Bulldogs leaned on the Eagles’ defense deep into the game, coach Danielle MacBride said. Her girls looked like a different unit than in the Oct. 9 run-in.
“Every game for us we go into it as a must win, but there was a little more sense of urgency today,” MacBride said. “It’s a heated rivalry between the two.”
Hood River tried to adjust to the Bulldogs’ rocket shots after half. When two Hermiston goals came on perfectly placed balls below the crossbar, the Eagles coach opted for his backup, but taller, keeper Laura Waller.
“Three of the four goals ... were really skilled goals,” Kevin Haspela said. “I can’t say that my defense broke down today. They earned them through skill.”
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