HANFORD — Hanford’s Sheyenne Hodge showed up in the biggest of ways on Friday night, when the lights were the brightest and the test was the biggest.
The talented Bullpups were making their third consecutive trip to the playoffs, but what they lacked was a playoff win the last two seasons.
Hodge took care of that by putting together a spectacular hat trick — in only 45 minutes — and the 2-seed Bullpups downed 7-seed Hoover 3-1 in the CIF Central Section Division III quarterfinals.
“Well, I’ve never played in a playoff game,” Hodge said. “This is actually my first one, so I had a lot of motivation and determination to put my heart out on this field and put them in the back of the net, which is my job.”
Hodge leads the team with 19 goals on the year after missing all of her sophomore season due to a torn ACL. The junior has scored in five of the team’s last six games and registered her third game of three goals or more this season.
Hodge got the scoring started in the 33rd minute when she created space just inside the box by losing a Patriots defender. Her left-footed shot deflected off the back of a defender and into the net for the 1-0 lead.
“I feel like we just were dribbling too much in the box,” Hodge said. “We weren’t taking our shots like we should have and then I just had the opportunity and I cracked it and luckily it went in.”
The score remained the same at halftime and the first 40 minutes was marked by two solid defenses. After all, the Hanford defense allowed 0.92 goals per game in the West Yosemite League and Hoover was at one goal per game in the North Yosemite League. Neither was going to give in so easily.
The Bullpups (17-2-4, 9-2-1 WYL) had a couple good looks in the first half before converting their score.
The first came in the 21st minute with Madison Stewart’s shot from 15 yards out, but the Hoover goalkeeper made a diving save. The second came just two minutes later with Cianna Rodriguez, second on the team with eight assists, making a run down the line and putting a great cross into the box where Stewart put another shot on frame, but right into the goalie’s hands this time.
Hoover (16-8-3, 8-2 NYL) was able to generate a bit of pressure, but Hanford goalkeeper Hanna Murrieta made six great saves in the half.
“We talked about, at halftime, was just pressure and look for that switch on the back side,” Hanford coach DelRay Dias said. “Here we come out in the first 10 minutes of the second half and we put two in the back side and Sheyenne buried both of them.”
Hodge was able to bury goals in the 43rd and 45th minute to give the Bullpups a 3-0 lead and put the game away.
After her teammate was tackled in the box, the ball found its way to Hodge who put an easy touch on it for her second goal. She finished her night off by taking a ball from Isabella Schroder and putting a rocket into the net on a hop.
“I feel like it was a different game,” Hodge said. “My mind was nowhere but the game, so I just knew what I had to do and did it.”
The Patriots were able to score in the 70th minute, but didn’t muster up nearly as much pressure as they did in the first half. They were limited in the attacking third and had two shots on goal in the second half.
Hanford finished with 10 shots, eight shots on goal and a corner kick. Hoover had nine shots, eight shots on goal and zero corners.
“The girls showed up today and they performed just like they were supposed to,” Dias said.
For the third-year coach, it was his first playoff win at the helm for the Bullpups and he called it “a little monkey off my back.”
The Bullpups will host 3-seed Mission Oak (19-5, 8-2 EYL), who finished as the East Yosemite League co-champions this season, today at 6 p.m. Mission Oak is also the defending Division III champions, having won it as the 1-seed last year.
“It’s all about the challenge,” Dias said. “They’re a great squad. They have a good coach. They have a good program. We’ll do our thing.”