HERMISTON — After pulling off a hat trick on senior night, Joel Mendez was feeling good. And so was the rest of the Hermiston boys soccer team. The Bulldogs ended their regular season with a commanding 8-0 win over Pendleton on Tuesday, and had to prepare for a quick turnaround to keep their season alive.
The play-in game at Kennison Field on Saturday did just that.
Hermiston hosted Milwaukie for a win or go home match up, and defeated the Mustangs 3-1.
The physical match once again showed off the talent of Mendez, as he was responsible for two of the three goals en route to the victory.
“It’s the strikers instinct and he’s always had that,” head coach Rich Harshberger said of Mendez. “I look back, and he hasn’t always gotten the most minutes through his sophomore and junior year but he has scored some big goals for us over the years, tonight not the least of any of them.”
“It’s just that strikers instinct that you can’t train,” he continued. “You can’t teach somebody to do that. They just have to know where to be, know what to expect from their teammates and fortunately these guys have been playing together for a long time so they know what to expect from each other.”
Mendez scored his first goal in the ninth with three defenders on him in the box. He managed to head the ball from a cross just outside of the keeper’s reach and Hermiston held onto the 1-0 lead into halftime.
After the break, Mendez knocked in another one as he slid the ball into the net.
There was no shortage of shots on goal for Hermiston in the second half, but it would take nearly the rest of the half until the Bulldogs scored again. During that time, Milwaukie made things interesting when it got one past Hermiston goalkeeper Juan Navarrete in the 71st minute, but Hermiston then scored its insurance goal and sealed its postseason fate.
“Sometimes these play-in games can be as hard as a semifinal or quarterfinal,” Harshberger said. “They brought it and they stepped up to that challenge and they didn’t back down from it at all.”
Hermiston will face Hillsboro in Round 1 of the 5A Boys Soccer State Championships. Hillsboro will host the match on Nov. 1. The start time has yet to be determined.
Hermiston girls end season at home
The Hermiston girls season came to an end Saturday evening as the La Salle Falcons escaped Kennison Field with a 3-1 win in a play-in game.
The defensive effort on both teams kept the game scoreless for a good part of the first half. Hermiston’s Heidi Fuentes had some good stops to keep La Salle at bay, but the Falcons finally broke through in the 24th minute, as a header from La Salle’s Audrey Schelb off a corner kick put the Falcons up 1-0.
They would enter halftime up by one more score after a Hermiston handball in its own box led to a penalty kick. Megan Lyver set up a nice fake that sent Hermiston’s goalkeeper Lanie Gomez in the opposite direction of the ball.
Four Bulldogs were missing from Saturday’s contest: Jael Fuentes, Amanda Nygard and Daniela and Adriana Rodriguez. Hermiston missed their presence, especially Nygard’s speed up front but a handful of junior varsity players stepped in to help.
“We had a few holes but we asked a couple of the JV girls to come up and they stepped up and they were good for us,” head coach Danielle MacBride said.
After the break, the Bulldogs were finally able to get on the board of what seemed like an impossible shot by Hannah Thompson in the 54th minute.
Johnson controlled a short pass on the far right side of the field, and then sent the ball sailing into the opposite side of the goal. The ball barely caught the net, and then bounced in to cut Hermiston’s deficit.
“She does that, I don’t know where it comes from,” MacBride said of Thompson. “There’s not much more you can say to it. I told David (Wattenburger), ‘I want to see her do it again, prove it.’ At the same time, a goal is a goal. We’ll take it.”
But it was too little too late for the Bulldogs, as La Salle scored its third and final goal just minutes into the second half. Again it was a header from Schelb off a corner that sealed the deal.