Oregon’s soccer team trailed 2-0 with only 20 minutes left in the 1A regional final on May 11.
This was after a first half in which Byron controlled the ball on its side of the field for 75 percent of the time.
To compound matters, Olivia Lambrigtsen, one of the key players for the Lady Hawks, was not at the game and this was a program only three years in the making compared to 15 for Byron.
In a stunning reversal though, the Hawks rallied for an improbable 3-2 win in overtime.
“Byron came out like they were there to prove something and some of our players played to not make mistakes,” Oregon Coach Seger Larson said. “These girls never quit. At halftime, I told the girls not to give up on each. I hadn’t given up on them.”
With 30 minutes left, Oregon gave an inkling of what could be by a near miss at the goal by Katelyn Byerley. She was set up by Leah Watters on a perfect pass and had a dead-on attempt that was gobbled up Byron goalkeeper Isabelle McKinley.
But Watters and Byerley tried the same play 10 minutes later and though a score didn’t result, Byerley was tackled in front of the goal which resulted in a penalty kick for the Lady Hawks.
Oregon’s goalkeeper, Katelin Pudlas, was brought all the way up the field and placed a rocket shot in the corner of the net that McKinley had no chance of stopping.
“Our seniors, like Katelyn Byerely, MyKenzie Beitel on defense, Katelin Pudlas in the goal and Hannah Donaldson really stepped up,” Larson said.
It was Donaldson setting up the next score on a long-range free kick after another Tiger infraction. With 4:55 left in the game, she lofted a kick towards the net that Watters was able to alertly corral.
With light rain coming down, McKinley looked to have a stop on the shot but it slipped through her arms for a 2-2 tie, the same fate that befell Pudlas on Byron’s first goal in the first period of regulation.
“I saw it bounce off someone and put it right at (McKinley),” Watters said.
Byron put together a flurry of activity near Oregon’s goal with 2:30 left, but could not regain the lead with Pudlas tending net.
“She’s one of the best in the conference and that goal that went through her arms was a fluke,” said Larson of Pudlas.
After regulation ended tied, Oregon had its choice of goal for the first 10-minute overtime and they chose the north end. Every goal had been scored at that end and the wind was favorable.
Hoping to take advantage of favorable field position, Madisyn Byerley came up with the ball at midfield and found her big sister, Katelyn, in stride upfield.
Katelyn, under heavy pressure near the net from Byron’s Olivia Ebens, beat Ebens to the ball and drilled it past McKinley for the only goal in the two 10-minute extra periods.
It came with 1:45 left in the first OT and only had a 1-foot clearance from the side post.
“It was so nerve-wracking,” said Katelyn, who had a look of both exhilaration and relief on her face once the shot got through. “I was able to read the play and do the best I could. This team has worked so hard for this.”
In the second OT, Audrey Willa had a free kick for Byron, but the play was squelched by Pudlas.
Then, with 40 seconds left, Anika Roush, who had one of Byron’s (11-8) first-half goals, had a shot-on-goal also stopped by Pudlas.
“I made poor adjustments at half,” Byron coach Andy Stavnem said. “We came out a little more defensively than we needed to be. That’s on me.”
In the previous Byron-Oregon game, the Hawks won 2-1 in extra periods.
No. 2 sub-sectional seed Oregon (15-6-1) advances to the Indian Creek sectional to play No. 1 Rockford Lutheran (9-8) on Wednesday, May 15. They were not able to play in regulation due to a rain out.
“This is something to build on. To win a regional in only our third year is saying something,” said Larson, who will returning to his high-school alma mater for the sectional.
Oregon will still be without the services of Lambrigtsen, who is in Hawaii attending her sister Sam’s college graduation.
“I don’t have a say in that one,” said Larson, the fiancé of Sam Lambrigtsen, Oregon’s all-time leading basketball scorer.