A regional title was the best birthday present Oregon goalkeeper Owen Ketter could have asked for.
On the same day the junior turned 17, the Hawks claimed their third soccer regional title in 5 years with a 2-0 win over Woodstock Marian at the 1A Johnsburg Regional on Saturday.
“This is the best way to celebrate,” said a smiling Ketter after his teammates, coaches and fans sang Happy Birthday to him following the trophy presentation.
The Hawks and the Hurricanes were scoreless in the first half, but Oregon’s Alvaro Soler ended all that when he chased down a pass at the 22:21 mark and fired a shot into the left corner of the goal.
“It looked like I could get to the ball and then I just got the ball on my left foot and I shot it hard,” said Soler.
The ball sailed past the Hurricanes goalkeeper and Oregon led 1-0.
But just two minutes later, the Hurricanes took the ball downfield and fired a shot at the goal that just barely cleared Ketter’s outstretched arm. The shot hit the crossbar and bounced out of bounds.
“I thought it was in,” said Ketter. “We got lucky on that one.”
Senior Josh Sitze made it 2-0 with 8:56 to play when he raced to reach a long clear from Ketter.
“Owen booted it as far as he could and the first bounce went over the defender so I just keep running,” Sitze said.
The senior’s hustle was rewarded when the Hurricane goalkeeper fumbled the ball and Sitze tapped it in for the score. “I was not expecting it,” Sitze said.
Coach Seger Larson said the Hawks’ game plan worked well.
“In the first half we wanted to go into the wind and try to squeak in a goal. We hunkered down on defense,” Larson said. “Alvaro distributes the ball well and I trust that he will make the right decision.”
Larson also praised Ketter’s defense in the goal.
“Owen was very key in the win with 15 saves in goal along with an assist in the game,” Larson said.
The Hawks won its last regional title in 2016 when Sitze was a freshman.
Oregon hosts the sectional at Oregon Park West with the first semi-final game on Monday with Richmond Burton playing Shabbona (Indian Creek) at 4 p.m.
The 16-8-0 Hawks played on Wednesday, Oct. 23 against Schaumburg Christian. Due to press deadlines, coverage of that game will be on www.oglecountynews.com and in the Nov. 1 edition.
The Hawks fell to Schaumburg Christian 3-2 in tournament action earlier this season.
The sectional championship is Friday, Oct. 25 at 4 p.m. The winner of the Oregon Sectional will meet the winner of the North Shore Country Day sectional at the Lisle Super-Sectional on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.