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The Spartans get a hat-trick from Gaby Tena Palomares in 5-1 win over the Mustangs.

STAFF PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Hillsboro's Gaby Tena Palomares battles a Mustangs defender during the Spartans' game against Milwaukie, Oct. 17, at Hillsboro High School.
These coaches know what they're talking about.

Prior to the season, Hillsboro boys head soccer coach, Stuart Hoiem, said he had a young and inexperienced team that'd likely struggle early scoring goals, and any success they'd have would be reliant on improvement as the season progressed.

Now, with the just two games remaining in the regular season and in the wake of a nonleague slate that saw the Spartans go 1-4-2 and score the third fewest goals in the Northwest Oregon Conference, Hilhi has won three of their last five league contests, sit in a tie for third, and are averaging four goals per game over their last four starts.

The Sparts defeated Milwaukie 5-1, Wednesday night, Oct. 17, on the backs of Gaby Tena Palomares and Salomon Garcia-Ordaz, who combined for all five of the home team's goals. Tena notched a hat trick, getting two goals in the first 12 minutes, while Garcia-Ordaz tallied two, the last of which iced the game for Hillsboro in the game's waning minutes. All five scores were the product of a heightened level of tempo, both to start the game and throughout, something Hoiem said has been an issue for much of the season.

"I'm happy with the energy we started with," said the coach. "We've been having an issue getting off on the right foot, and I'm happy with how we kept the tempo up tonight and played our style."

He continued.

"I was impressed with how we were able to keep the momentum up for as long as we did. We've had a problem maintaining that level and letting teams get back into games."

That didn't happen on this night. The Spartans made sure of that.

Tena wasted little time getting Hillsboro on the board, scoring on a breakaway in the game's first minute, lofting a shot from the top of the 18-yard box up and over Milwaukie goal keeper, Gage Cory, and into the upper right portion of the net. The junior forward notched his second goal 11 minutes later when — following a Mustangs defensive mishap — he gathered a loose ball deep in the 18-yard box and shoved it past the unsuspecting Milwaukie keeper to put the Sparts up 2-0.

Milwaukie posed little offensive threat throughout the first half, but did manage one of their few decent shots in the 14th minute when Jose Ortiz sent one low and away from Hilhi keeper, Pablo Mendoza Osornia, only to have the junior goalie thwart it with a diving effort that kept the visitors off the board. Six minutes later Hillsboro built a 3-0 lead when Garcia-Ordaz scored his first goal of the night when, after a series of Spartan build-ups, the senior gathered a loose ball just inside the 18-yard box and blasted a laser into the lower-left portion of the net, sending the home Sparts to halftime three goals up.

STAFF PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Hillsboro senior midfielder Jair Diaz Sanchez chases down a ball during the Spartans' game against Milwaukie, Oct. 17, at Hillsboro High School."We've had a problem scoring goals," Hoiem said. "Tonight, especially in that first half, we got in and were able to finish chances."

The action — as expected with a three goal lead — slowed down a bit in the second half, but Hillsboro did get a third goal from Tena just two minutes in to put them up 4-0, and after Milwaukie's first and only goal in the 66th minute, the Spartans capped the scoring when Garcia-Ordaz closed the game nine minutes later.

Overall, Hoiem was happy with the effort and is excited with the direction his team seems to be heading.

"I'm pleased," said the coach. "This was the team I knew I had and this was the team I asked them to believe we had, and it's taken awhile and we've had some ups and downs, but hopefully this puts us on the right foot."

With the win, Hillsboro improved to 3-2 in conference play and kept themselves in position to qualify for the postseason. Hoiem isn't looking ahead, but is excited at the proposition due primarily to the progress he's seen from the beginning of the year, and especially in recent weeks.

"I feel like it's coming along," he said. "Where we were going to get goals and how we'd react under pressure were my two concerns, and were still learning where were going to get goals, but we've been much better at handling pressure. With the exception of La Salle, where we gave them three goals in 10 minutes, we've done a good job all season of keeping ourselves in games."

Now, with just two games remaining, at Parkrose, Oct. 23 (after this paper's print deadline), and home against Wilsonville, Oct. 25, the Spartans hold their fate in their own hands. With wins, they're likely in the playoffs, but with a loss their prospects become mirky, something Hoiem is giving very little thought at this time.

"It's one game at a time and we're not looking past anyone," the coach said. "After the game against Putnam, we had a long talk about belief and what winning looks like and takes. Belief is a big part of that, and not just in the team, but in yourself."

And when pressed about the playoffs?

"I think if we win these last two games, we'll likely put ourselves in," Hoiem said. "And if we don't, we'll be dependent on a little luck."

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