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St. Mary's boys eliminated in state semis

With both team's top offensive player out of the game with injuries, offense was hard to come by in the Class 3A/2A/1A boys soccer state playoff semifinals between St. Mary's and Catlin Gabel.

But it was the visitors from Portland that capitalized on one well executed play to come away with a 1-0 victory over the Crusaders on Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Community Park.

Catlin Gabel (16-1-1) will carry a 14-game winning streak into Saturday's finals at Wilsonville High School against Oregon Episcopal, which posted a 4-1 victory over Dayton.

Junior midfielder Joseph Oberholtzer created the scoring opportunity for the Eagles just over 10 minutes into the first half. Oberholtzer won the ball from three St. Mary's players near midfield and found Graham Fuller all alone down the left sideline.

"I got the ball and turned and saw the defense closing in," explained Oberholtzer. "I was looking toward the middle and I heard Graham yelling my name."

Fuller took one dribble then rolled a diagonal shot from 25 yards away just inside the right post past St. Mary's goalkeeper Tylor Peterson.

"I was wide open," said Fuller, a sophomore. "As soon as I got it I took the shot."

Catlin Gabel lost its leading scorer, senior Ian Maier, just one minute into the game when he suffered a back injury in a collision and never returned.

"We had a moment of brilliance and that was it," said Catlin Gabel coach Mike Davis, who has won nine state championships in 23 years with the Eagles. "(Maier) is a huge part of our game. There wasn't a lot of offense created once we lost Ian. I knew the game would be decided by one or two goals."

St. Mary's also faced a similar dilemma when its top offensive threat, Lou Arne, started the game but couldn't continue because of an injured thigh suffered in St. Mary's quarterfinal victory last Saturday.

With Arne on the sideline, the Crusader offense was carried by junior Harrison Leep and sophomore Jesus Acuna-Miranda. The speedy Leep was energetic throughout the game but could never get freed up for any legitimate scoring opportunities, and Acuna-Miranda was equally stymied.

"They definitely shut me down," said Leep. "Anytime I got the ball I wasn't able to turn, they were there."

While the Crusaders, who were on a roll with seven straight victories entering the semifinals, might have possessed the ball a little more than Catlin Gabel, they never got a shot on goal. The Eagles had just three shots and took four corner kicks to two for St. Mary's (16-4).

St. Mary's closest chance for a goal came at 25:15 of the first half when Mark Raniele had some space about 25 yards out and hit a hard, low shot that went about two feet wide left.

"I thought it was going to be good," said Raniele, "but it got slightly deflected right at the top."

Catlin Gabel is a stout defensive team. The Eagles only allowed nine goals all season and three came in their only loss to McLoughlin High — a Class 4A school which eliminated Phoenix in the state quarterfinals.

"We had to change our game plan and rely on our defense," said Davis. "We've been a strong defensive team."

Raniele was the most active player on the field. He was constantly mixing it up near midfield and made numerous intrusions into the offensive end. Late in the second half, Raniele and Catlin Gabel co-captain Matt McCarron were pulled over by the referee and warned for overly aggressive play.

"We got away from our style," said Raniele. "We stopped moving and couldn't string passes together."

The St. Mary's defense excelled in its own right and was led by senior Elliot Coughlin, who as the last line of defense constantly thwarted the Eagles' attack.

St. Mary's fourth-year coach Paul Coughlin had praise for Raniele and his son Elliot.

"(Raniele) played with a lot of intensity on both ends," said Paul Coughlin. "Elliot was reading the angles well and knocked some long balls."

With his team down a goal, Paul Coughlin attempted to adopt a little different strategy.

"We tried to put additional pressure on them in the second half," said the coach, "but they gummed it up."

With one goal on the boards, that's all the Eagles needed to do to advance into the championship match.

Reach reporter Frank Silow at 776-4480, or e-mail fsilow@mailtribune.com