Hillsboro can't keep pace with high-scoring West Salem in a 7-1 state playoff setback

SALEM — The end did not go well for the Hillsboro girls soccer HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Hillsboro freshman midfielder Eileen Reyna catches an elbow in the face while fighting for the ball with Sprague's Emily Finicle last Saturday.

After making 2013 such an unexpectedly superlative season, the Spartans saw it draw to a difficult close Tuesday evening in a Class 6A second round playoff game at West Salem.

After putting up three goals in the first 25 minutes, the No. 8 Titans (14-0-2) cruised to a 7-1 victory against Hilhi and into Saturday’s state quarterfinals. The ninth-ranked Spartans ended their season at 12-4.

“Just one of those nights,” Hilhi coach Dean Miyama said. “Unfortunately it happened in the playoffs.”

West Salem wasted little time in putting its stamp on the game, getting its first goal in the 10th minute. After Taylor McLoughlin served a long free kick into the box, Anna Norrenberns slipped a header from close range over Spartans keeper Emily Jones.

Afterward, the Titans continued to press toward Hilhi’s goal and were rewarded with two more goals — from McKayla Creamer and Paula Labate — midway through the half.

“I think we were pumped up for this game,” senior defender Kelly Grover said, “but you know, I think the nerves got to us, and once they got those three goals...

“Halftime we come in and we can normally come back and get the adrenaline pumped back into us. I don’t know what happened.”

As Grover mentioned, the Spartans have come back from a deficit more than once this season. Not so on Tuesday, which just didn’t seem to be Hilhi’s night, even though the visitors seemed to start waking up as the half progressed.

A few minutes after Labate’s goal, Bri Miyama had a golden opportunity after drawing West Salem goalkeeper Julia VanWinckel out of her net, but the sophomore midfielder put her shot wide right. And then, with less than a minute left in the half, she sent another shot in the same direction.

“I feel like we tried our hearts out, but I just don’t feel like we played our game,” senior forward Kylee Taube said.

After picking up their fourth goal less than three minutes into the second half, the Spartans were rolling. They added two more before Miyama prevented the shutout with a blast from about 30 yards, which sailed into the net over West Salem reserve keeper Amanda Robertson in the 78th minute.

While the loss surely stings, it does little to take the shine off a season that seemed to come out of nowhere for the Spartans, who had never placed higher than fifth in their first three years in the Pacific Conference. Hilhi took third in the league this year, pushing No. 1-ranked Tigard and perennial state power Tualatin to their limits.

“It’s been a complete surprise, and it’s just been wonderful,” said senior defender Summer Olson, one of the team’s captains, along with Taube and Grover. “If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season, I would have never thought we would be here. I feel so thankful that I was able to be a part of this team.”

The Spartans also added to a relatively scant playoff history. This season’s state playoff berth was just the sixth ever for Hilhi. And when the team blitzed Sprague 5-0 last Saturday in the first round, it was the second-ever playoff win for the program — the first came all the way back in 1989, when a little dynamo named Tiffeny Milbrett roamed the pitch for the Spartans.

“I keep using the word special,” said Dean Miyama, who took over the program in 2007. “It was special. I’ve been doing this for a long time, coaching, playing. I’m going to remember this one for a long time — forever. It was special.”

Of course, next fall Hilhi will drop back into the Class 5A classification and the Northwest Conference. The last time that happened, in 2006, the Spartans won the league title.

That title-winning team boasted some talented players with playoff experience, as will next year’s squad.

So perhaps Tuesday night’s game was something of a beginning rather than an ending.

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