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Bulldog soccer battles elites

As expected, Culver soccer's final trio of matches as very tough.
   The Bulldogs faced the 3A/2A/1A Special District 5's top contenders to finish up the regular season. Each entered matches against Culver without a league loss.
   Riverside (now 4-0-1) finished up the rough schedule with a 6-1 victory at the Bulldogs' field Saturday. The loss dropped Culver to 2-3-1 in league play (6-4-2 overall).
   The Pirates were coming off a 1-1 match at Grant Union (also 4-0-1) on Thursday. Both Grant Union and Umatilla (4-0-0) handed Culver league losses.
   On Saturday, Culver led for much of the first half. Juan Espindola scored at the 18th minute in his final match.
   "Juan has a knack of scoring against tough opponents, as Riverside was," Bulldog coach Tom Kirk said. "They were marking closely; it was tough to get a shot off. Juan was able to."
   Culver had a chance to go up 2-0 on a penalty kick at the 20th minute. The Riverside keeper made a diving stop to maintain a 1-0 deficit.
   That 1-0 Bulldog lead lasted through halftime and 15 minutes into the second half. Riverside scored 15 minutes into the second half on a shot "just off the ground from 25 yards out," Kirk said. "I'm not sure how it shot through everybody, but it did."
   Riverside followed with a second goal minutes later. The Pirates went on to score four more goals.
   "We played great soccer for two-thirds of the 80 minutes," Kirk said. "In the last third of the match, we saw all of Riverside's offensive tricks from very skilled players."
   Kirk praised senior forward Travis Beebee for using his speed to "keep the pressure on the other team. He never gives up."
   In Culver's second season of soccer, all of the team's losses were to league opponents headed to the playoffs. The Bulldogs had two losses to Grant Union in addition to falling to Umatilla and Riverside.
   "We played a full schedule this season; we showed we could compete at a playoff level," Kirk said.