Hillsboro High School girls soccer coach Dean Miyama didn't know what to expect from his team this season. With seven seniors gone to graduation, including the team's best player, his daughter Taliya, it was unclear just how this year's Spartans would perform. But after tying crosstown rival Glencoe in their season-opener and recording a 4-0 defeat over Hood River Valley Tuesday night, Sept. 14, the coach is encouraged by what he's seen and excited about what's to come from a young but talented group of girls.
"Against Glencoe last week, I liked what I saw," Miyama said. "Tonight, we took another step and based on what I saw, we have some nice pieces and I'm excited and hopeful for what's ahead."
The Sparts seemed to ease into their match with the Eagles of the Intermountain Conference, feeling their opponent out in the midfield before finally attacking for the game's first goal in the 13th minute when junior Audrey Leos finished a cross off of a corner kick by senior Margaret Shively.
Despite a handful of additional scoring opportunities in the first 40 minutes, it was Hillsboro's defense that stood out. The Spartans allowed few-to-no legitimate looks in the first half and continued that relentless defensive effort in the second stanza â€“ when their offense simultaneously exploded.
After a near miss in the half's first 30 seconds, freshman jitterbug Diana Correa scored in the 45th minute to make it 2-0, finishing a pass from Leos who'd craftily picked her way through Hood River Valley's defense before finding Correa in the middle of the box.
Miyama's face lit-up when asked about Correa's play. The coach said he was unfamiliar with the freshman prior to tryouts, but added that despite her skill, the challenge now is to get her to play her game with confidence opposed to sitting back and deferring to the team's older and more experienced players.
"Typically, our freshmen tend to kind of hold back and try to defer to the upperclassmen," the coach said. "I've been trying to tell her that she needs to be the player that she is, and I'm going to push her to do what she does because she's so skilled."
Another one of those skilled players is Shively. The team's co-captain scored just three minutes after Correa's goal on a put-back from her initial shot, and five minutes after that on a corner kick that deflected off of an Eagles defender in front of the goal. Miyama spoke to the midfielder's poise on the field as an asset, but also her leadership and effect on the team off of it as an invaluable contribution to their success.
"You see what she does on the field, but it's her personality that means so much to us," he said. "She keeps the group relaxed, and they just enjoy being there with her and being around each other."
Shively is one of seven seniors on the Spartans 19-person varsity roster, including goalkeeper Andrea Marin, who's allowed just a single goal in the team's first two outings. But among those seniors are six juniors, a sophomore, and two freshmen, Correa and defender Braxtyn Ellsworth â€“ who too sees significant time on the field.
Miyama acknowledged that there will likely be some growing pains along the way, but also admitted to being encouraged by what he's seen to start the year, and that's gotten him thinking about just how things could ultimately play-out.
"There's a lot of inexperience so I'm not really sure what to expect game to game, but I've been pleasantly surprised and if I do my job," Miyama said with a chuckle, "who knows what can happen."
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