LA GRANDE — The young Pendleton Buckaroos saw some positives to build on even in a match that may not have shown it on the scoreboard.
La Grande’s Cecelia Aguilera netted a hat trick, Audrey Garlitz added two goals and had four assists, and the Tigers opened the 2019 season with a 10-0 home win over the Buckaroos on Thursday at Community Stadium in La Grande.
“(We’re) a very young team, and that is our issue,” head coach Paul Parker said, noting the team lost nine seniors from the previous year.
The coach said he saw areas of improvement over the course of the match, particularly on the defensive end.
“Some things I saw that were really solid (was) the movement of the defensive line, and it improved drastically between the first and the second half. We only gave up three goals in the second half, which was a drastic improvement,” he said.
Senior Ashlynn Madril agreed, and added that the team was improved over its 12-0 loss to Lewiston, Idaho, just two days earlier.
“I felt we were playing a better team (in La Grande), and we played better and gave up fewer goals,” she said.
La Grande, though, did score early and often to put the game away quickly, and was able to dominate possession no matter who was on the field.
The Tigers, who reached the 4A semifinals a year ago, wasted little time getting on the board. Freshman Rosie Aguilera scored from in close in the third minute, and Cecelia Aguilera — her older sister — followed with her first two goals for a 3-0 lead in the 13th minute.
“We were trying to work on the speed of our play a lot,” Cecelia Aguilera said. “I think we’re doing well. And I think we built a lot of trust on this team.”
Garlitz — who assisted on each of the first three goals — followed with her first seconds later for a four-goal lead. Lauran Rinker, Katie Williams and Starra Ullman each added goals before the half ended for a 7-0 lead at the half.
La Grande head coach Sam Brown said the game provided the Tigers a good opportunity to not only get back on the field, but run a wide range of lineups, as they began rotating players early in the match.
“Very pleased with how they played,” Brown said. “Possession was good. Touches were good. Movement was good. No complaints today.”
Both Garlitz and Cecelia Aguilera found the back of the net early in the second half — Garlitz in the 51st minute and Aguilera in the 53rd to seal her hat trick — and Josie Bornstedt added a late goal for the final margin.
Parker pointed to speed as one of the key differences, and indeed, the faster Tigers did dominate possession. La Grande held the ball in its offensive end of the field the majority of the match and generated 55 shots, 36 of which were on goal.
A major bright spot for Pendleton was goalkeeper Linsdey Little Sky, who weathered the barrage from La Grande to register 25 saves.
“Our keeper played a phenomenal game,” Parker said.
Pendleton (0-2 overall) is off until Sept. 19 when it travels to McLoughlin.