HERMISTON — The Hermiston Bulldogs held a 1-0 lead when Pendleton’s Whitney Hillmick finally found space. With 20 minutes remaining in their rivalry game, she swerved past defenders and sent a powerful right-footed kick toward the goal from the top of the 18-yard box. The ball ricocheted off the left post and was smothered by Hermiston’s goalkeeper Hope Butler.
Had the ball been placed a few inches to the right, Hillmick would have tied the game. Instead, Hermiston (8-1, 2-1 CRC) regained possession and would score three quick goals, transforming the close game that was into the eventual blowout it became as the Bulldogs bested the Buckaroos 4-0 at Sandstone Middle School Tuesday.
“(Hillmick) had some chances and up 1-0, that goal goes in, it definitely changes the game,” said David Hurtado, Hermiston’s head coach. The fact that it didn’t, he added, was a turning point in the game.
Pendleton (4-4-2, 1-2 CRC) didn’t have many opportunities to score — Hillmick’s post-hitter was the only shot on goal for the visitors.
Hermiston got late goals from a trio of juniors in Mikaela Rodriguez, Breana Berger and Maggie Coleman after the near-goal from Pendleton, all coming in the last 15 minutes of the game. Hillmick said the offensive onslaught had less to do with tired legs and was a product of a high-powered Hermiston offense that swarmed the Pendleton end of the field all afternoon.
The Bulldogs put the pressure on from the opening whistle, attacking with force and preventing any sort of flow in the Bucks offense. Even with a narrow lead the game felt dominated by the home team, which racked up more than 20 shots, 11 of them on goal.
It was just a matter of time before the Bulldogs busted the game open, their coach said.
“We definitely dominated the possession,” Hurtado said. “I think we had about 70 percent of it. We were playing half-court soccer most of the time.
“It’s hard to defend that long ... but when we have that many opportunities, eventually they will start to go in.”
The victory regains some momentum for a Hermiston team that dropped a 3-0 decision to Hood River Valley last week, their first loss of the year.