A regional title was the best birthday present Oregon goalkeeper Owen Ketter could have asked for.
On the same day the junior turned 17, the Hawks claimed their third soccer regional title in 5 years with a 2-0 win over Woodstock Marian at the 1A Johnsburg Regional on Saturday.
“This is the best way to celebrate,” said a smiling Ketter after his teammates, coaches and fans sang “Happy Birthday” to him following the trophy presentation.
The Hawks and the Hurricanes were scoreless in the first half, but Oregon’s Alvaro Soler ended all that when he chased down a pass at the 22:21 mark and fired a shot into the left corner of the goal.
“It looked like I could get to the ball, and then I just got the ball on my left foot and I shot it hard,” said Soler.
The ball sailed past the Hurricanes goalkeeper and Oregon led 1-0.
But just 2 minutes later, the Hurricanes took the ball downfield and fired a shot at the goal that just barely cleared Ketter’s outstretched arm. Fortunately for the Hawks, the shot hit the crossbar and bounced out of bounds.
“I thought it was in,” said Ketter. “We got lucky on that one.”
Senior Josh Sitze made it 2-0 with 8:56 to play when he raced to reach a long clear from Ketter.
“Owen booted it as far as he could and the first bounce went over the defender, so I just keep running,” Sitze said.
The senior’s hustle was rewarded when the Hurricane goalkeeper fumbled the ball and Sitze tapped it in for the score.
“I was not expecting it,” Sitze said.
Coach Seger Larson said the Hawks’ game plan worked well.
“In the first half, we wanted to go into the wind and try to squeak in a goal. We hunkered down on defense,” Larson said. “Alvaro distributes the ball well, and I trust that he will make the right decision.”
Larson also praised Ketter’s defense in the goal.
“Owen was very key in the win, with 15 saves in goal along with an assist,” Larson said.
The Hawks (16-8-0) won their last regional title in 2016 when Sitze was a freshman. Oregon also won a regional in 2015.
Oregon hosts the sectional at Oregon Park West, with the first semifinal game on Tuesday between Richmond Burton and Indian Creek at 4 p.m. The Hawks play on Wednesday against Schaumburg Christian at 4 p.m.
Oreogn lost to Schaumburg Christian 3-2 in a tournament game earlier this season.
The sectional championship is Friday at 4 p.m. The winner of the Oregon Sectional will meet the winner of the North Shore Country Day sectional at the Lisle Supersectional on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.