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Hillsboro girls shut out McMinnville to keep pace with Pacific Conference-leading Tigard, Tualatin

Monday was Sami Moellmer Day.

In a Pacific Conference girls soccer clash against McMinnville, the Hillsboro junior recorded the standout individual performance of the afternoon, notching a hat trick to provide all of the scoring in a 3-0 victory at Hillsboro High School.

“It feels really good, and it feels good that I can contribute to my team like that,” Moellmer said afterward.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Hillsboro freshman midfielder Kennedy Taube (3) battles for possession of the ball with McMinnville's McKenzie Davis during Monday's Pacific Conference girls soccer match.

With the win — a second consecutive since a 2-0 loss to Tualatin on Oct. 3 — Hilhi improved to 9-2 overall and to 3-1 in league play, good for a tie for third place with Newberg heading into Wednesday’s matches. McMinnville dropped to 5-4-1 and 1-3.

Moellmer said she had a hat trick earlier this season against Wilson (a 5-4 Spartans victory), but this time around, her three goals were the only three goals. She staked the home side to an early 1-0 lead in the sixth minute when she latched onto a ball sent from out wide by Tatiana Rodriguez, took a touch, and slotted a shot past Grizzlies goalkeeper Audrey McMillan for an easy finish from 10 yards.

Though there was still plenty of game left, that tally would hold up as the game-winner. Much of the rest of the first half was a somewhat sleepy affair, with Hilhi coach Dean Miyama attributing the play, at least for his team, to the schedule change. Prior to the match, the Spartans had never played a game earlier in the week than on Tuesday, and the team did not practice the day before the Grizzlies contest.

“It was a struggle today. I think that was it, mentally and physically, just playing on Monday instead of Tuesday,” Miyama said. “The first half was sluggish. Luckily, they figured it out a little bit in the second half.”

Indeed, Moellmer and Kylee Taube injected some life back into the game. In the 51st minute, Taube had the ball along the left end line near the Grizzlies’ goal. She played a ball back toward the middle of the penalty area to Moellmer, who pounded a shot into the back of the net from about seven yards on her first touch of the second half.

Moellmer’s final score came in the 64th minute through some luck and her own hard work. At the top of the Spartans’ final third, a ball in the air glanced off of Moellmer’s head and continued toward McMinnville’s goal. She used her speed to stay a step ahead of a Grizzlies defender and then ripped a shot past McMillan from inside the penalty area to complete her three-goal outing.

“We’ve been working on that, her composure on the ball, especially in front of the net,” Miyama said. “So she improved a lot.”

Thanks in part to a solid defensive effort, Hilhi goalkeeper Emily Jones was not forced into making any spectacular saves, and she picked up the team’s fourth shutout of the season.

Though Monday was Moellmer’s day to shine, the game continued to highlight the various offensive options Hilhi has at its disposal. Rodriguez — who also had a goal and two assists in last week’s victory against Glencoe — and Taube demonstrated the playmaking ability and team chemistry that have helped the Spartans become one of the highest-scoring sides in Class 6A this fall.

“Giving that assist, it felt really good, because ... I don’t really care for the goals, I just care for giving the assists,” Rodriguez explained. “If the person didn’t give the ball, then they wouldn’t have scored in the first place.”

The victory set up a Wednesday showdown with league co-leader Tigard, which tied Tualatin 1-1 on Monday. Results were not available at press deadline. The Spartans wrap up Pacific Conference play next week with a home match against Forest Grove on Tuesday and a road game at Newberg on Thursday.

Any results in those matches would continue to improve upon last year’s 7-6-3 season.

“It’s not that really we got a lot of new girls, which is the surprising thing, since it’s such a huge turnaround,” Moellmer noted. “I think the whole thing is that our team has chemistry this year, which is different from past (years). Even if there’s a lot of girls that have talent, without the chemistry it’s not going to work.”

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