Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
HILLSBORO — After 1,365 miles in buses and 221/2 hours of driving, St. Mary's road came to an end.
The Oregon Episcopal boys soccer team unleashed a hailstorm of shots to down the Crusaders, 2-1, in the Class 3A/2A/1A state final at Liberty High on Saturday.
It was the third road game in the Portland area in eight days for the eighth-seeded St. Mary's, which upset top-ranked Riverdale in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Portland Adventist Academy in the semifinals to reach the grandest of stages.
Once there, the Crusaders (11-3-2) were blitzed by the No. 3 Aardvarks (18-1). OES, which owned a 1-0 lead at halftime, outshot St. Mary's 18-6 (including an 11-3 edge on shots on goal). The Portland school also earned an 8-1 corner kick advantage in a match that saw it dominate possession.
All the travel added up, St. Mary's head coach Paul Coughlin said.
"That plays a role," Coughlin said, "but this is what we contend with, unfortunately, as a strong southern Oregon program. I don't know if it will ever change. It is more of an uphill battle for us than other teams."
St. Mary's senior defender William Lee capitalized on a direct kick from 22 yards out in the 78th minute. He was his team's player of the game.
Oregon Episcopal's Matthew Sipowicz (his squad's player of the match) knocked in the unassisted go-ahead goal in the 34th minute and teammate Jonathan Dugoni scored on a Cal Seneker assist in the 66th minute.
Sipowicz crossed his shot into the lower right corner of the net and Dugoni went near post from 13 yards out.
Facing much of the Aardvarks' offensive wrath was senior goalkeeper Christian Aviles, who recorded nine saves in a complete-match effort.
He was on his toes all day — quite frequently, he was also on the ground after diving to make a stop.
Aviles had never played soccer until this season. The former football player volunteered to take on the role between the pipes and quickly proved to be sound at the spot.
Even as the match stood scoreless, Aviles was busy at work.
"I definitely had to work hard today because of all the shots they had," Aviles said. "All the different angles, crossing and volleys and headers.
"They are a really good team. They are good at working the ball wide, but I didn't let that get to me. Once I got one shot blocked, it was on to the next shot. I took it one at a time."
The Crusaders — who have not captured a state crown since 2003 — got a couple good looks at the net early after OES starting goalkeeper Patrick Leon was given a yellow card and taken out of the match for touching the ball outside of the penalty box. But Jared Cloutier came in cold for Leon and halted St. Mary's attempts.
With four minutes left in the contest, St. Mary's Tracy Salgado had his penalty kick denied by Leon.
"We had our opportunities," said Coughlin, whose squad was making its third appearance in the championship match in four years. "It could have been a little different outcome, but it was what it was. Welcome to playoff soccer."
Oregon Episcopal earned its fifth championship since 2005. The Aardvarks fell to Riverdale in last season's final.
"St. Mary's just plays a classy style of soccer and they are a solid team," said OES head coach Justin Kerr, who has coached the team for 15 years. "It didn't surprise me at all that they were in the finals. They are just a great team."
And so are the Aardvarks, Coughlin said.
"Today, there is no shame to lose to a team who outplayed you," he said. "They did outplay us. They were the better team today."