La Grande Tigers’ head coach Sam Brown couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the season.
Cecelia Aguilera netted a hat trick, Audrey Garlitz added two goals and had four assists, and the Tigers opened the 2019 season with a 10-0 home win over the Pendleton Buckaroos Thursday at Community Stadium in La Grande.
“Very pleased with how they played,” Brown said. “Possession was good. Touches were good. Movement was good. No complaints today.”
With the game getting out of hand quickly — La Grande scored four times in the first 13 minutes to take a 4-0 lead and led by seven goals at the half — Brown had an opportunity to go to his bench early and get a look at potential lineups.
“It’s always nice to get some of those players in. It also allows them to gain some confidence, and allows us as a coaching staff to be able to see how things (can be) put together,” he said.
La Grande scored early and often to put the game away quickly, and was able to dominate possession no matter who was on the field.
Freshman Rosie Aguilera scored from in close in the third minute, and Cecelia Aguilera — her older sister — followed with her first two goals for a 3-0 lead in the 13th minute.
“We were trying to work on the speed of our play a lot,” Cecelia Aguilera said. “I think we’re doing well. And I think we built a lot of trust on this team.”
She was also excited to see her sister put home her first career goal.
“That was pretty good,” Aguilera said. “She kind of surprised me, but she did good.”
Garlitz — who assisted each of the first three goals — followed with her first seconds later for a four-goal lead. Lauran Rinker, Katie Williams and Starra Ullman each added goals before the half ended for a 7-0 lead at the half.
Both Garlitz and Cecelia Aguilera found the back of the net early in the second half — Garlitz in the 51st minute and Aguilera in the 53rd to seal her hat trick — and Josie Bornstedt added a late goal for the final margin.
La Grande dominated every facet of the game, and it started with possession. La Grande held the ball in its offensive end of the field the majority of the match and generated 55 shots, 36 of which were on goal against the younger Buckaroos.
“(We’re) a very young team,” and that is our issue,” head coach Paul Parker said, noting the team lost nine seniors from the previous year.
Parker pointed to speed as one of the key differences, but said the team showed strides even over the course of the match.
“Some things I saw that were really solid (was) the movement of the defensive line, and it improved drastically between the first and the second half. We only gave up three goals in the second half which was a drastic improvement,” he said.
Senior Ashlynn Madril agreed, and added that the team was improved over its 12-0 loss to Lewiston, Idaho, just two days earlier.
“I felt we were playing a better team (in La Grande), and we played better and gave up fewer goals,” she said.
A major bright spot for Pendleton was goalkeeper Lindsey Little Sky, who weathered the barrage from La Grande to register 26 saves.
“Our keeper played a phenomenal game,” Parker said.
La Grande (1-0 overall) travels to Fruitland, Idaho, Monday.