OREGON – For the first time all season, the Oregon soccer team was healthy – and it showed in a 4-0 regional win over Byron.
Last month, the teams split two games and the regional was expected to be a toss-up, though Byron was the higher seed. But this was a different Hawk squad than the one Byron previously saw.
“This was the first time we put it all together,” senior forward Berto Dominguez said.
The Tigers were reeling 10 minutes into the game after Oregon jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and were never able to recover.
Leading scorer Eduardo Guzman took a Dominguez pass and nailed a 20-foot shot for the 1-0 lead on a bang-bang play.
Less than a minute later, Oregon increased its lead on a fluke play. Byron goalkeeper Conner Harn corralled Nick Zalzalah’s shot on goal, but the ball slipped out of Harn’s hands into the air.
Josh Sitze was positioned near the net and managed to put a head on the loose ball and it bounced into the net for a 2-0 Hawk advantage.
“After getting up two goals, we were able to play more relaxed,” Oregon coach Seger Larson said. “We didn’t have forced shots or get frustrated.”
With the misty weather and slippery field, Larson was concerned how his team would hold up.
“I thought the ball was going to skip, but we controlled it,” he said. “This is the best we’ve played all year. We were more focused.”
In Byron’s regular-season win over Oregon, foreign-exchange student Lukas Barma burned the Hawks with a pair of goals. Barma only had one legitimate shot on goal this time, primarily because
Oregon finally has its full quota of defensive starters.
“Because of injuries, we’ve never played with this group [Alan Acosta, Jon Acosta, Grant Cermak, Landon Lazansky] together before,” Larson said. “It was nice having a full week off to rest.”
Jaspreet Gill was also solid in the net, leaping high at the 8:45 mark of the first half to stop a Byron shot. In the second half, he made diving stops on two breakaways to preserve the shutout.
“This game came down to converting,” Byron coach Eric Tryggestad said. “They converted and we didn’t. It easily could have been 3-3 in the first half.”
It was a relative unknown that made it 3-0 for Oregon with 4:32 left in the first half. Freshman Jayden Davis took a long kick from the side by Dominguez and headed the ball into the net past Harn.
“I had three guys [Davis, Guzman, Brendan Riesselman] I could get it to,” Dominguez said. “Jayden was there at the perfect moment. He got his head on it and had a great finish.”
Dominguez almost made it 4-0 early in the second half, but his shot was just off the mark. No matter; Guzman upped the lead to 4-0 in the 50th minute with a nifty goal.
“I’m going to miss him next year,” said Larson of his star senior who nearly scored two more times.
Oregon (6-12-3) advances to Friday’s 1A regional final against BNC champ Stillman Valley, who was undefeated in conference play. The Hawks have won the last two regional titles.
“The way we played tonight, you can throw the records out,” Larson said.
• 1A Oregon Regional final, No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 1 Stillman Valley, 4 p.m. Friday