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La Grande’s Erin Bodfish brings the ball upfield during the Lady Tigers’ 4-0 win over Hermiston Tuesday. (Paul Harder/The Observer)
The Tigers learned an important lesson last season — it matters who you play in the non-league schedule.
Case in point, a season opener against Class 5A Hermiston on Tuesday.
“We didn’t get those tough out-of-league games last year,” said La Grande head coach Sam Brown.
“It makes it tough when you finally get to the playoffs. We didn’t have any game that really helped our RPI.”
The La Grande girls soccer team got the match-up they wanted, plus a 4-0 win to open the season.
Haley White showcased her skills all game long. The senior opened the scoring in the first half, beating the goalie one-on-one with a near post chip-in.
“We were just excited to get back out on the field,” White said. “Our goal is to build on what we did last season, and go further this year.
“It’s been nice to have played with my teammates for a few years. We have a great idea of what we want to do.”
That familiarity was forefront all game long with the give-and-go passes, including the second goal of the game.
White set up sophomore Alissa Welberg for an easy goal to take a 2-0 advantage in the first half.
“That’s what we want to do,” Brown said. “Teams are going to commit a few players to stopping Haley. That opens up the field for the rest of the team. But, they have to respect her, too. She’s an amazing athlete.”
La Grande got a bit of a wake-up nearly put a blemish on goalie Auslin McDaniel-Perrin’s scoresheet.
The shot went to the far post, but banged against the upper part and the side part of the goal before the defense cleared the ball from goal.
“We talk a lot about the other side of confidence,” Brown said. “I don’t think we reached the other side after we got ahead, but that served as a wake-up call for the team.
“We know that teams are going to score on us sometime. We take chances on offense that sometimes leaves us scrambling on the other side of the field. We can live with that if our offense is playing well.”
The offense did just that, keeping the ball in the attack zone most of the game.
Welberg recorded her second goal of the season to open the second half on a soft lead pass and beat the Hermiston goalie on the near post.
With a 3-0 lead, and the momentum, Brown started getting into the bench a little more. The offense kept coming.
Lacey Miles, a freshman, got the first goal of her high school career to cap the scoring. White set up the goal, beating a defender on the sideline and forcing the defender responsible for Miles to leave her assignment.
“We don’t have a lot of girls out this season,” said Brown. “But what we do have is pretty amazing. I think many of our second line could start on a lot of teams around the state.
“I think it’s the start to a great high school career for Lacey. It’s always nice to see a freshman get that first goal out of the way.”
La Grande has high goals set after reaching the Class 4A quarterfinals last season, and White said the team isn’t going to look too far into the furture.
“It’s the next opponent up that we’re worried about,” said White. “This is a good start to get where we want to go, but there’s always room for improvement with every part of our game. We need to get better every day.”
The Tigers get right back on the field against another member of the Class 5A Columbia River Conference in Pendleton Thursday at 5 p.m.
The Buckaroos lost to Lewiston, Idaho, 5-1 in their season opener Aug. 29. The Tigers beat Pendleton twice last season.