On election day across America, the predicted “Blue Wave” did not materialize, except at Catlin Gabel High School, where the blue-clad Eagles won 3A/2A/1A soccer semifinals in both the boys and the girls matches, the boys by a 2-1 score against previously-undefeated St. Mary’s of Medford and the top-seeded girls by a decisive 9-0 score over Blanchet Catholic. Catlin Gabel will take on league foe Oregon Episcopal School in both finals.
In the boys’ match, which started at 4 p.m., the teams played even through a scoreless first half. St. Mary’s was playing without standout Parker Lam and another of its stars, Luka Cvijanovic, was slowed by a knee injury, but the Crusaders, who had won 16 matches in a row since a season-opening 3-3 tie with Catlin Gabel, moved the ball well and had a lot of the possession.
Catlin Gabel started to pick up the pace in the second half against the boys from Medford and finally broke through in the 23rd minute, when Spud Ward delivered a perfect cross that went through one Eagles’ legs and found the foot of another Eagle, Felipe Rueda, in the box. He settled the ball, made a dribble move to clear himself and pounded a shot past the defenseless keeper.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Catlin Gabel added to its lead. Matthew LeBlanc made a terrific run down the right flank and crossed the ball into the box where it found the foot and then the hand of a St. Mary’s defender. Evan Karp converted the penalty kick with a hard shot to the goalie’s right.
The 2-0 lead, combined with Catlin Gabel dominating possession, appeared close to insurmountable for St. Mary’s, which nevertheless pressed the attack. That aggressiveness paid off when Cvijanovic was able to bang home a loose ball with three minutes remaining to give the Crusaders hope. St. Mary’s, however, was not able to mount another threat in the waning minutes, owing largely to the strong defensive play of sophomore Cai Fernandez-Powell and freshman Josh Hamlett.
“The whole second half I think they got a little tired and we settled,” noted Catlin Gabel coach Peter Shulman. “Once we did we had a lot of the play.”
“St. Mary’s came out and played a great game,” the coach continued. “They were not at full strength. You have to give them a ton of credit. They came out and played very well. They moved the ball well. They were a well-coached team.”
A special shout out to the Catlin Gabel players is necessary. They knew that the St. Mary’s players were hurting after taking their first loss and to a man showed great empathy afterwards. The class displayed in victory was, to this observer, more important than the result.
The girls’ game was not nearly as competitive. Catlin Gabel, the undefeated top seed, was the aggressor from the beginning. The Eagles peppered the Cavalier defense and goalie Lauren Elmore with shot after shot in rainy conditions before breaking through in the third minute, when Catlin Gabel’s third corner kick of the game led to a ball played into the box that slipped out of Elmore’s hands in the wet conditions. Caroline Cook pounced on the loose ball and banged it into the net from short range to give Catlin Gabel the lead.
The talented and athletic Eagles did not score again for more than 10 minutes, but once they did, on a great through ball that beat two defenders before landing on the foot of speedy freshman Kendrick Dahlin, who finished with a shot to Elmore’s right, it opened the floodgates for several more goals. Tall senior Emma Sadle scored on a sweet back heel off of a nice corner kick from Ann Louise Naito. Naito scored after terrific play from Dahlin and Cook created a 1-on-1 with her and the goalie. And Sophie Wand scored the fifth goal of the half on a penalty kick after a great run by Anousha Greiveldinger and cross to Dahlin, who was taken down in the box.
Wand, who had several terrific runs down the right early in the second half and crosses that yielded chance after chance but no goals, scored twice in the half on left-footed shots to complete the hat trick. Annika Holliday and Lola Diaz Gonzalez also netted terrific goals to complete the scoring in the 9-0 decision, a score that would have been much higher but for the goal keeping from Elmore and the strong defense of Mariella Saldana.
Catlin Gabel head coach Chris Dorough, who was not pleased by his team’s play in a 3-0 quarterfinal win over Riverdale, was much more satisfied with his Eagles tonight.
“Tonight we played as a team and it showed,” he said. “We were there to finish.”
Dorough played his entire squad and the domination was seamless.
“We’re a very deep team,” Dorough said. “The [reserves] do contribute at a high level. We push each other so much in practice it makes our starters that much better.”
Catlin Gabel will take on four-time defending state champion OES after the Aardvarks pulled out a 6-5 overtime win in Medford at St. Mary’s. Catlin Gabel and OES have played twice this year, with the Eagles winning 1-0 and 3-0.
“We have OES in our sights,” Dorough said. “That’s what we’re focused on. We’re ready for it.”