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Valiants fall in finale, but match best season ever

OES beats VC 2-1 in a rematch of District 1 champs on Saturday


HILLSBORO — It was fitting, perhaps, that the girls soccer teams from Valley Catholic and Oregon Episcopal ended up doing battle once more in Saturday’s rain-soaked Class 3A/2A/1A state championship game at Liberty High School.

The Valiants and Aardvarks, after all, had shared top honors in District 1 league play, finishing the 2012 season in a perfect tie at 6-0-2. Those two ties, of course, had come against each other, the teams fighting to a 2-2 result on Oct. 8, and then to a 1-1 deadlock on Oct. 23.

by: MILES VANCE - IT'S IN - Valley Catholic senior Claire McLoughlin (right) and teammate Reilly Blood celebrate McLoughlin’s second-half goal during their state-championship loss to OES on Saturday at Liberty High School.

Indeed, their regular seasons were almost mirror images of the other’s, with Valley Catholic carrying a 13-0-2 record into the championship game while OES entered at 13-1-2. Further, the match-up featured the state’s two top teams, with OES ranked No. 1 in the state while VC came in at No. 2.

“Both our teams are very similar,” said Valley Catholic senior midfielder Meg Rapp. “We both like possession. We both like the ball on the ground. We look for those through balls, getting it to the end line and crossing it in. In a way, we were playing each other because both teams look for the same things.”

With that as pretext, it was no surprise that the Valiants and Aardvarks turned in yet another classic on Saturday, with OES getting an early goal in each half and using that edge to beat VC 2-1 and win the 2012 state championship.

“We kind of knew all year it was going to be us and OES in the final,” said Valley Catholic senior midfielder Chelsea Alsdorf. “We knew it. We just couldn’t come out on top. We just couldn’t come out with the result.”

Ending up on the wrong end of the score, however, did little to diminish Valley Catholic’s pride at the end of a year that matched the best season in school history. In addition to their District 1 title, the 2012 Valiants became just the second team in VC history to reach the state championship game — the 2008 Valiants went 15-1-3 overall and lost 2-0 in the title game to Philomath.

“I’ll remember the team chemistry that we had, the memories that we had getting to this point, the journey — all of it,” Rapp said.

“I have never been on a team that was as close-knit or that had chemistry like this team,” said senior forward Claire McLoughlin, who scored her team’s lone goal on Saturday. “I’m just proud to be a part of it.”

“I’ll remember being with my seniors,” added sophomore forward Chelsea Alsdorf, who assisted on McLoughlin’s score. “I’ve literally been with them since I was little and I’m going to miss them so much. That’s what I’m always going to remember because they made this experience so great for me.”

That said, OES kicked the battle into high gear just moments into the game when Aardvark senior forward Anastasiya Chevtchenko took a free kick from 25 yards out of the VC goal near the left sideline. Chevtchenko’s kick sailed high over the Valiant defenders toward the upper left corner of the goal, where sophomore keeper Amanda Carrera leapt up to catch the ball, only to see it slip through her hands and drop into the goal for a 1-0 lead just 1 minute, 16 seconds into the match.

“Honestly, it was like ‘It begins.’ That was the first thing that was in my head because I know our team has come back from being down before, one time against OES,” McLoughlin said “I knew we were going to find something that would make us come back, the drive the will. I knew we’d come back.”

“I just kept thinking ‘This game isn’t over. We’re here and we’re going to play this game ‘til the whistle blows in the second half,’” Connelly said.

The Valiants did just that, and while they wouldn’t score in the first half, they did create a couple of great scoring chances, the first of those when McLoughlin lobbed the ball into the right side of the OES penalty box where Connelly ran onto it and volleyed it just high midway through the half.

VC’s other big scoring chance in the opening period came when Connelly sent a long cross across the OES goalmouth from the right endline and Alsdorf’s shot was deflected away with 11 minutes remaining in the half.

The Valiants knew they weren’t done, though. They talked it over with head coach Kayla Crandall and assistants Megan Gabourel and Emily Keagbine at the break, then came out determined to compete even harder.

Crandall “just told us to keep our heads up and that’s what we did,” Alsdorf said.

In the second half, it was VC that created shockwaves with an early goal, thanks to a Connelly cross from 20 yards out on the right endline that McLoughlin tracked into the box and volleyed home at the near post just 2:02 into the half.

“I screamed ‘Sarah’ and then I saw the ball,” McLoughlin said. “I volleyed a few shots before and I was like ‘Today’s the day,’ and it went in. When I saw it hit the net, I was like ‘All right.’”

“It gave us some hope,” Connelly said.

The Aardvarks didn’t hang their heads, though. Instead, they attacked, pushed the ball downfield quickly after the ensuing kickoff and scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal just 21 seconds later. On the scoring play, OES senior Hannah Huston sent the ball into a crowd of players in front of the VC goal and sophomore Carolyn Ruoff got her foot on it and knocked it home for a 2-1 lead.

Still, VC knew it had time left — 36:37 in the second half to be exact — and fully expected to come back yet again.

“We knew we could do it because we’d done it before so we just kept going all the way to the end,” Connelly said.

As they had in the first half, the Valiants created a couple more dangerous scoring chances in the remaining minutes, either of which might have tied the contest yet again. The first of those came on a Rapp free kick from the right endline with 31 minutes to play that freshman Reilly Blood headed off the left post; the second came 10 minutes later when McLoughlin crossed the ball into the OES box and senior Emily Gabourel met the ball and Aardvark keeper Sara Eaton at the right post but didn’t score.

In the end, though, VC just couldn’t get the ball back in goal again and had to settle for second.

“We kept the fight going,” Connelly said. “I’m so proud of my team.”

“We had a really well-coached team and we loved each other a lot,” Alsdorf said. “We had a really young team, but it didn’t matter because we had the skill there. It’s probably the best team I’ve played on at Valley, all sports included.”

To see a complete photo gallery from this game, please go to www.milesvance.exposuremanager.com.



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