Hillsboro pushes its winning streak to five games with a 2-0 victory over three-time defending state champion Woodburn

Last Thursday, the Hillsboro boys soccer team ended a notable streak while building upon one of its own.

The Spartans posted one of their most impressive results of the season in knocking off Woodburn 2-0 at home. The result snapped an amazing 40-game unbeaten run — including 36 victories — stretching over three seasons by the Bulldogs, who are gunning for their fourth consecutive Class 5A state championship this fall.

Prior to last week, Woodburn’s last loss was a 3-2 setback to North Salem in its season opener on Sept. 7, HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Hillsboro senior forward Tyler Hoiem dribbles the ball upfield against pressure from Woodburn defender Christian Andrade during last Thursday's non-conference soccer match, which the Spartans won 2-0.

“This was a true testament to see where we really are,” said Hilhi senior Abran Serrano Garcia, who played a pivotal role in both goals, scoring the first and assisting on the HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Hillsboro senior Javi Mendez Zepeda looks for a passing lane after getting past Woodburn's Kevin Vasquez during last Thursday's game.

That win and a 5-1 victory at Wilsonville on Tuesday upped the team’s record to an unblemished 5-0-0 in 2013, and the squad jumped up to sixth in the OSAA Class 6A power rankings. Remarkably, the goal the Spartans conceded to Wilsonville was the first they have given up all season.

Against Woodburn, nerves were a factor for the Spartans early on, and they fought for traction against the Bulldogs.

“I think we were just a little on edge, and we just settled in after about the 20th minute, switched up some things and started playing our game,” longtime Hillsboro coach Tim Ellsworth said.

The Spartans began the game playing in a 3-4-3 formation but changed that to a 4-4-2, which Ellsworth said helped his team manage more effectively in the midfield.

The payoff came in the 53rd minute, when the Spartans twice found their way into the Bulldogs’ net.

On his game-winner, Serrano Garcia took a cross from fellow forward Tyler Hoiem and put a shot over the Woodburn goalkeeper’s head. And after the restart, Serrano Garcia applied near-instant pressure, taking a shot that Woodburn’s keeper stopped but did not control. Eduardo Vargas was there to put away the rebound, giving the Spartans a two-goal lead that they would maintain for the rest of the game, despite some pressure from the Bulldogs.

Woodburn had two golden opportunities later in the game to cut into Hilhi’s lead but could not cash in. One came on a breakaway opportunity, but the Bulldogs shot wide of the goal. On the other, Hilhi keeper Phoenix Baltrus came up big for a save.

“We’re limiting the high-quality chances,” Ellsworth observed. “That’s something we’re priding ourselves on, is playing team (defense) across the field and limiting any quality chances.”

Hoiem and Serrano Garcia have formed an effective and balanced striking tandem up top for the Spartans this year. In the Wilsonville victory, Hoiem scored two goals — including the game-winner in the 29th minute — and added an assist to raise his season totals to five goals and five assists.

Serrano Garcia added a goal and an assist of his own against the Wildcats, giving him four of each heading into Hilhi’s non-conference game on Thursday against Grant.

“He’s playing up top for us and working hard, and he’s pretty determined this year,” Ellsworth said about Serrano Garcia. “Actually, that’s kind of the strength of our team, is they’re all really determined.”

Against the Wildcats, Diego Canastuj-Lopez and Vargas added a goal each, and Hilhi did not allow a score until the 69th minute after having gone up 5-0.

The team returned home to face the Generals on Thursday (results not available at press time). The Spartans will open up Pacific Conference play by hosting rival Century next Tuesday.

The Jaguars picked up a 3-1 win at Wilson on Tuesday to move to 4-1-0 for the year and up to 12th in the OSAA rankings. After that, the Spartans will wrap up their non-conference slate with an Oct. 5 match at Sherwood that was rescheduled from earlier in the season before resuming league play against Glencoe on Oct. 8.

So while the win against the Bulldogs was notable, with the heart of the season upon them, the Spartans have plenty of reasons to keep playing.

“We’ve just got to make sure we don’t get cocky about it,” Aaron Barber-Axhelm said. “It feels good to beat them, but we can’t think we’re all macho and stuff like that, and we still got to play our game.”

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