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PREP SOCCER: OES boys celebrate hard-earned state title

by: COURTESY OF JOHN HOLLORAN - The Oregon Episcopal School boys soccer team celebrates its 2013 Class 3A/2A/1A state championship Saturday at Liberty High, after defeating St. Mary's 2-1 in the final.Oregon Episcopal School came out firing.

And, in a classic championship match, OES earned its fifth boys soccer state championship since 2005.

The Aardvarks never trailed in defeating St. Mary's 2-1 Saturday afternoon at Liberty High for the Class 3A/2A/1A title.

"I'm so proud of these boys," says OES coach Justin Kerr, whose crew outshot St. Mary's 18-6 and never trailed.

Oregon Episcopal finished with an 18-1-0 record. The only loss came 2-0 in the regular-season finale to No. 1-ranked Riverdale, the 2012 state champion.

After that, the third-ranked Aardvarks ran the table, downing No. 16 Dayton 2-1, No. 7 Portland Christian 4-0, No. 2 Riverside 2-1 and then No. 9 St. Mary's.

"They worked hard all year and never once spoke of the state championship until we were in it," Kerr says.

OES had lost 2-1 to Riverdale in last year's final.

"It was our mission" to return and win, Kerr says, "but we knew we had to take one game at a time. The fact that they were able to do that is a reflection of the character this team possesses."

St. Mary's (11-3-2) scored in the 78th minute to make the closing moments tense.

"This was a tough game against a quality opponent," Kerr says. "Though we had the run of play throughout most of the match, St. Mary's is a dangerous side with the ability to counter-attack at anytime.

"Plus, when you consider they had beaten three teams from our district (including Riverdale 1-0 in the quarterfinals), I was obviously concerned. (St. Mary's coach) Paul Coughlin does a great job with that program. That's why they have been in three of the last four state finals."

The Aardvarks were able to put enormous pressure on the Crusaders and their goalkeeper, Christian Aviles, however.

And OES took a 1-0 lead when junior midfielder Matthew Sipowicz scored in the 34th minute.

In the 66th minute, the Aardvarks got the insurance goal they needed. Jonathan Dugoni, a sophomore defender, finished a cross to the near post from freshman Cal Seneker.

St. Mary's won a penalty kick in the 76th minute, but junior keeper Patrick Leon denied Crusaders star Tracy Salgado.

That proved even bigger moments later, when William Lee scored from 22 yards for St. Mary's in the 78th minute.

Leon made two saves, while counterpart Aviles was forced to make nine.

The Aardvarks' offensive pressure also resulted in an 8-1 advantage in corner kicks.

Sipowicz, named the OES player of the match, finished the playoffs with six of his team's 10 goals, plus two assists. He got game-winners versus Dayton and Portland Christian.

"Matthew Sipowicz was incredible," Kerr says, of his player's performance in the final. "He got us on the board with a very classy goal and was always in the mix on every play. His ability to hold the ball and find open runners is incredible."

Dugoni "played like a stud," Kerr says. "He was challenging everything in the midfield and doing the extra work to get us opportunities to regain possession."

Kerr says Dugoni's game-winner was "a heady shot to the keeper's lower-righthand side."

And senior forward Brooks Yeager "gave us some great runs and kept their defense busy," Kerr says.

St. Mary's, which had also knocked off No. 4 Portland Adventist Academy 3-2 (4-2 on PKs) in the semifinals, was playing its third game in the Portland area in eight days. The stretch required 22 1/2 hours and 1,365 miles on the bus.

"All in all, it was a terrific match," Kerr says. "Both teams played hard. Both teams played well. To win against a team with the quality St. Mary's has, it's a real honor."