OAKWOOD — Edwin Mendieta wanted to do something special for his mother on her birthday Tuesday night.
It was nothing he could buy, but instead something that she and the rest of Mendieta’s West Hall teammates could celebrate. The senior scored three goals as the Spartans cruised past North Hall 7-2 for crucial Region 7-AAA win in Oakwood.
“I dedicate the three goals to her,” he said.
Mendieta capped off a four-goal first half for West Hall (13-2, 5-1) with quick-rolling shot to the lower right corner of the net on a penalty shot. He scored again in the 55th minute with a quick-arcing shot over the North Hall goalkeeper, then completed the hat trick by flanking down the right side of the field and firing a well-targeted attempt to the top left portion of the goal.
He highlighted a surprisingly high-scoring contest between two teams ranked in Class AAA’s top 10 with major region implications on the line. The Spartans entered the game No. 3 and the Trojans were No. 7.
“The whole team played together,” Mendieta said. “We played as a group, and it really helps a lot when you play as a group. I can’t do it myself.”
West Hall can win the region title and earn the top seed from Region 7-AAA if wins its final region game against Banks County next Tuesday and Dawson County suffers another loss. Now with its first region blemish of the season, North Hall (8-3-2, 5-1) can open the door to a Spartans’ region title while moving into the No. 2 position should the Trojans defeat the Tigers next Wednesday.
With all three teams currently sitting with one region loss, West Hall coach Andrew McCain is sure to be keeping a close eye on how next week’s games unfold.
“We have to sit back and watch happens with the other region games,” McCain said. “We need to see how the season develops, but if there’s a tie and it comes down to goal differential that helps us win region, that’s why tonight is so important.
“This was a season-defining game for us. It was make or break, and luckily we made it. I’m really impressed with how they handled themselves.”
The Spartans’ offensive onslaught marks the fifth time this season they have reached the seven-goal mark. They scored six unanswered goals after a 1-1 tie through 10 minutes of play.
Pedro Perez notched the first tally of the contest for West Hall seven minutes in, but North Hall answered two minutes later when Jake Stephens headed in Tyler Show’s free kick in front of the crease.
The Spartans controlled the rest of the first half, outshooting the Trojans 17-6 at halftime while adding three more goals. Cesar Villa and Samuel Coto found the back of the net within seven minutes of each other and Mendieta scored his first goal in the 35th minute.
Isaac Castruita capped off West Hall’s offense with a rolling shot from long range with 6:58 left to play. Frankie Vazquez was the winning goalkeeper with 10 saves.
“We knew how to approach the game, and as soon as we got a couple of goals up on them we switched up our strategy,” McCain said. “That’s kind of where we are right now — trying to change things up and be unpredictable.”
North Hall was awarded a free kick following a foul just as time expired at the end of the game. Junior Avalos converted the attempt for the Trojans.
WEST HALL GIRLS 2, NORTH HALL 1: Alyssa Hall and Katie Forrester each scored in the second half to keep the Lady Spartans afloat in the playoff race Tuesday.
With the win, West Hall (6-6-1, 3-3 Region 7-AAA) moves into a tie with the Lady Trojans (7-6-2, 3-3) for fourth place in the region.
Gabrielle Ligas and Katie Kirland each tallied assists for the Lady Spartans, and Kylie Beaman stopped six of seven shots she faced. Alex Lawson scored the lone North Hall goal in the 76th minute.
West Hall wraps up its regular season when it hosts Banks County at 5:30 p.m. next Tuesday. North Hall hosts Madison County at 5:30 p.m. Friday.