Playing on their home field in a 1A sectional semifinal, things could not have started any better for the Oregon Hawk soccer team.
With less than 2 minutes gone in its game against Schaumburg Christian, the Hawks seized a lead after seniors Josh Sitze and Eli Rufer combined on a goal. It was Sitze, whom coach Seger Larson calls the best player in the BNC, feeding Rufer on a corner kick.
“We didn’t mark up their big guy,” SC coach Kyle McVey said.
Rufer calmly collected the shot and drilled it past the Schaumburg Christian goalkeeper, as the home crowd erupted in cheers. It was also a far cry from the August outing between these two teams when Oregon fell behind 3-0 on its way to a 3-2 loss.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, that was the final score again, as the faster Conquerors scored the next three goals and held on for the 3-2 win.
“We made a few little mistakes that they were able to capitalize on,” Rufer said.
Capitalization may have been the difference in the final outcome.
“Other than the first few minutes of the second half, we outplayed them, but didn’t capitalize,” Larson said.
Trailing 3-1 with 21:40 left in the game, Oregon foreign exchange student Alvero Soler got past the Schaumburg defense and put a shot in the net well past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Aaron Onesimus.
Ten minutes later, Soler almost tied things up 3-3. Onesimus left the goal to retrieve a loose shot and was met by Soler. It was Onesimus who beat Soler to the ball, potentially saving a goal.
Oregon had another golden opportunity moments later. Keshon Reed had an open path to the Schaumburg goal and had the ball knocked away before he could get a shot off.
“He didn’t shoot it when he should have,” Larson said.
That was Oregon’s last real chance to send the game into overtime, as darkness began to creep in on the unlighted field.
“Oregon is a good second-half team,” McVey said. “We know what they did to us the first time. They even had the wind at their back in the second half today.”
In their two regional wins, six of Oregon’s seven goals came in the second half.
Goalkeeper Owen Ketter, who has been one of the bright spots for Oregon, had his hands full with the offensive-minded Conquerors.
Ben Lee tied the game 1-1 at the 31:43 mark of the first half, lofting a solo shot over Ketter’s head.
“He had great ball skills,” McVey said.
Schaumburg Christian continued its assault on goal, with Ketter and company repelling them until Jordan Epps caught a rebounded stop and tapped the ball into the net from close range, making it 2-1.
“We never gave up on the ball,” Larson said. “But we played like them – through the ball – instead of possessing the ball.”
Epps almost made it 3-1 before the half ended, but Adam Acosta and Grant Cermak stepped in to assist Ketter at the goal. Even though Oregon took the early lead, Schaumburg Christian had control for most of the first half.
“If the ball is in our offensive half of the field, it’s hard for them to score,” McVey said.
Just like Oregon did to Schaumburg Christian the first half with a quick goal, it was the Conquerors making it 3-1 with under 2 minutes gone in the second half. Epps passed to Nathan Bedford for a header into the net.
Epps gave Oregon fits the entire game, deftly moving the ball past Hawk defenders with speed and agility.
“We were dropping one guy to negate his speed,” Larson said.
Epps barely missed a header from the side with 7 minutes left, and then defender Tyler Vegliando saved another goal attempt by Epps with 5 minutes left in the game.
In the final minutes, Schaumburg Christian went into total defensive mode and shut down any attempts Oregon had, effectively slowing things down.
Oregon finished with a 16-9 record, while Schaumburg Christian (14-6-1) moves onto the sectional final against Richmond-Burton.
“The loss doesn’t take away from what our seniors accomplished,” Larson said. “They were the first group I had as freshmen when I came here.”