In a performance that on most afternoons would end in victory, the Philomath High girls soccer team just couldn’t miss Hidden Valley’s goalkeeper.
The defending state champions dodged a bullet on a Philomath penalty kick midway through the first half and then a few minutes later was able to finish in traffic in front of the net to take a 1-0 victory over the Warriors in the season opener for both teams.
“I feel like we left a win on the field today, absolutely,” PHS coach Mat Phelps said. “We were the more dominant team. I was really proud of the girls for really stepping up to the occasion. They worked really hard.”
But the Warriors were not able to finish. They had several opportunities in the first half and through the first 20 minutes of the second half before the visitors slowed down the Philomath attack over the last 20.
“It was a really equally-matched game,” PHS senior co-captain Madison Rogers said. “We passed really well and I think we played and communicated as a group really well. We just didn’t finish.”
Atira Fairbanks, K Bacho, Halle Hewitt, Braedyn McNeely and Rogers all had shots on goal over the first 40 minutes and most went right into the hands of Hidden Valley all-state goalkeeper Kaiah Fisher.
“Our effort was there the entire game and I would guess we had twice as many shots on goal as they did,” Phelps said. “We found the big girl in goal almost every single time; we put it right to her. We just need to clean up some of that stuff.”
The toughest pill to swallow came with the PK opportunity in the 21st minute. Bacho and Fisher appeared to collide in the box, although the Mustangs goalkeeper was adamant with the officials that she did not touch her Philomath counterpart.
Nevertheless, the Warriors got a chance with a penalty kick. Pittman took the shot and missed wide to keep the game scoreless.
The Mustangs had one of its few offensive threats seven minutes later and Leah Beachy scored from short range with a lot of bodies in front of the net. Gabrielle Heverly sent the ball into Beachy on the play.
I think our work ethic was really positive today and our communication was really good,” Phelps said. “There were some positives but we can’t focus on what-if’s and we go to the next opportunity.”
In the second half, Hewitt, Pittman, Bacho and McNeely again had opportunities with shots either going right to the keeper or sailing high. Hidden Valley had most of its offensive success in the final 20 minutes, although the Warriors never really came close to allowing a second goal.
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“We definitely got tired towards the end of the second half and that was a factor,” Rogers said. “We’re definitely going to be working on that.”
Philomath seemed to be controlling a lot of the battles within in the game, which made the final score even that much more frustrating for the home team.
“We had a hard time combining the outside and the inside, but overall, I thought we did a really good job for our first game,” Rogers said. “Like small passing — we did a lot of long balls and we’re not exactly fit enough for that yet. As we move on, I think we’ll get a lot better at that.”
Philomath (0-1) will head to Gladstone Saturday for what is anticipated to be another tough matchup. The Gladiators are coming off a 3-2 victory over Stayton, last season’s Oregon West champions.
Hidden Valley 1, Philomath 0
Wednesday at Philomath
HIDDEN VALLEY (1-0) 1 0 — 1
PHILOMATH (0-1) 0 0 — 0
First half — 1, Hidden Valley, Leah Beachy (Gabrielle Heverly), 28th minute.