HERMISTON — The story of the season has been one of lasts. The last year Hermiston will play in the OSAA. The last chance to win bragging rights over Pendleton. The last opportunity to win an Oregon state title.
For the Hermiston boys soccer team this season has also been about playing its own game and the Bulldogs proved how successful they can be when they do just that.
The 8-0 shutout victory over Pendleton at Kennison Field on Tuesday was redemption from the draw they were dealt on the road a few weeks ago.
With the help of a senior class that head coach Rich Harshberger calls the spin of the team and a more complete mentality and performance from their last outing, the Bulldogs were able to hold on to bragging rights in the Hermiston-Pendleton rivalry.
From the start, Hermiston took and maintained control of the game. The Bulldogs (8-3-3 overall, 3-0-3 Columbia River Conference) pushed the pace, and rarely gave up possession of the ball. They put Pendelton’s defense to work early. The Buckaroos (1-11-1, 0-5-1) fended off a handful of shots on goal early on, but in the end couldn’t stop Hermiston’s attack.
“We were just able to establish ourselves a little bit better,” Harshberger said. “History shows that this is going to be a game we are going to win, and Pendleton brought it in that last game so we were definitely focused up. For us, this is as big as Hood River. We can’t drop the ball here and that was the message coming in this entire week and preparing for this game and I think the boys came out here and executed really well. I think they were fired up and they were ready for it.”
Senior Joel Mendez capped of his senior night with a hat trick. His efforts came early as he scored first goal of the night — a quick tap in — with just under 25 minutes until halftime. The Bulldogs scored two more goals in a 10 minute span to enter the break with a 3-0 lead. Junior Emilio Leal sent the ball flying into the left side of the goal, and Mendez earned his second with another tap in but this time off a short pass from fellow senior Noe Silva.
After the intermission, Pendleton didn’t stand a chance. While the Bucks were able to make their way into Hermiston’s half of the field several times in the first 40 minutes of play, the second half was almost entirely played in Pendleton’s backfield.
The Bulldogs didn’t waste any time increasing their lead. Silva scored on the second effort after sophomore Coleman Solano sent the ball flying toward the goal.
Sophomore Oliver Paredes followed that up with a goal of his own. After some action in the box, the ball came directly to Paredes’ feet, he had time to settle it, and sent the ball into the opposite side of the goal which forced Pendleton to substitute in a new goalie.
One after the other, shots were finding the back of the net. Mendez completed his hat trick with what he considered his favorite shot of the night, a goal scored on his own accord from farther away.
The Bulldogs put two more in before the night was over to claim the 8-0 victory, and will now get ready for a quick turnaround.
On Saturday, Hermiston will host a play-in game. While the Bulldogs don’t yet know who they will play, one thing is for certain. Behind the efforts of a strong senior class, there is nothing standing in the Bulldogs way.
“I think there’s no reason why we can’t challenge for a state title this year,” Harshberger said. “As long as we can stay focused, as long as that group of seniors can stay focused and keep the drive going with this team I don’t see any reason why we can’t be challenging for that state title.”
In the first of Hermiston’s doubleheader, the girls soccer team was able to squeak by Pendleton 2-1 to end the regular season. It was also the home finale where 11 seniors were honored. One of whom had the best night of the bunch.
Senior Hannah Thompson scored Hermiston’s only goal of the night. The second goal was off the foot of a Buckaroo, and it was Pendleton’s own-goal that saved the Bulldogs from a draw.
Thompson and fellow senior forward MaKayla Pacheco were moving down the field at an even pace when senior defender Quin Latham sent the ball to Johnson’s side of the field. A quick move past the defender, and John found the back of the net.
“It was nice to get one for myself but a lot of it was for my team because I wanted to beat Pendleton our senior night,” she said. “It was for all of us seniors and all over us graduating and finishing soccer.”
Even with the win under their belt, the Bulldogs didn’t play their best and will need to clean up play moving forward into the postseason.
“It’s one of those (games) where its tough because we came out with the win,” head coach Danielle MacBride said. “There were spurts you know when we moved the ball we did it well and we scored and we had opportunities but its one of those days you wish you could go back and do it again but all you can do is move forward and hope it doesn’t happen again.”
The win pushed Hermiston’s record to 6-6-2 overall and 3-1-2 in league play. The Bulldogs earned a home play-in game on Saturday, and will hope to rebound from Tuesday’s performance.
“It was just one of those off days for us,” MacBride said. “You hope to set a standard for yourself and play to that standard regardless of who you’re play. You don’t want to play down to your opponent, but it happens and kudos to (Pendleton). They never gave up and they put us on our heels a couple of times and there are certain times we could have played a little harder but we move forward still.”
The Buckaroos (1-9-2, 0-6) have struggled to get anything going but were able to put up a fight Tuesday, and get on the board for only the second time in league play. Junior Denisa Senkerikova scored Pendleton’s lone goal in the second half to prevent the shutout.
Like the boys, the girls will find out Wednesday who they will face in the play-in at home Saturday.
“We take this as a positive and will come back and redeem ourselves,” MacBride said.
Contact Alexis at email@example.com or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.