Catlin Gabel celebrates with the blue trophy after winning state for the second consecutive season (2019 and 2021)
Catlin Gabel celebrates with the blue trophy after winning state for the second consecutive season (2019 and 2021)

Alicia Ye scored off of a throw in from 15 yards out with only seconds remaining on Saturday morning to lift Catlin Gabel to a 1-0 victory over Oregon Episcopal School at the OSAA / OnPoint Community Credit Union 3A/2A/1A Girls Soccer State Championship played at damp Liberty High School in Hillsboro. The title was the second in a row for the Eagles and their state-record 15th all-time, breaking a tie with Jesuit.

The goal was both sudden and unexpected. On a day where OES keeper Cameron Gabrielson was absolutely brilliant and Catlin Gabel had failed to convert two quality scoring chances in the waning moments of the second half, overtime seemed imminent when Elise Kim threw the ball into Ye just a few feet in front of her, about 14 yards from the goal mouth.

Ye, a sophomore who missed a month of the season with a high ankle sprain and had been playing minimally as she worked her way back into health, flicked the ball with her right foot to control it, hitting OES standout Olivia Faucera in the hand. Faucera hesitated for a split second, which gave Ye an opportunity to work around her. Ye positioned her frame between Faucera and the ball and pushed the ball onto her left foot with two dribbles as defender Mia Robertson attacked.

With lightning speed, Ye fired the ball through Robertson towards the goal from 15 yards out to Gabrielson’s left.  The ball rocketed past stopper Zoe Bullard on the left – she had no chance to get a touch on it -- skipped once on the hard turf and dove into the left corner of the net, eluding a diving Gabrielson.

“I think I was definitely shielded,” Gabrielson said. “The ball was very hard to see and I didn’t think it was going to go in. But it slipped in.”

“I got the ball and saw an open spot to the right of the keeper,” Ye explained. “I just split the defenders because I saw a gap in between. It went in and was such an exciting moment. What an adrenaline rush!”

Catlin Gabel head coach Chris Dorough watched the drama unfold from the opposite side of the field.

“The goal came out of nowhere to me,” he remarked. “We had a couple of chances before that that we just missed and then, all of a sudden, Alicia ended up with the ball at her feet in the box. I knew it was going in after she shot it. There was a lot of traffic in there.”

“I think we may have just stopped playing for half a second, maybe thinking there was a hand ball,” OES head coach Justan Wolvert observed. “In this environment, we wanted to ask for forgiveness not permission. We just stopped without a whistle, got a little flat footed and maybe didn’t react as quickly as we wanted to. Good strike from them. Sometimes that goes wide or we get a touch on it. That found the back of the net. Good goal.”

The goal essentially concluded the match between the two league rivals and small-school superpowers, who were competing in the state championship match for the sixth consecutive year. Catlin Gabel, which split regular-season matches with the Aardvarks, won state for the second consecutive time after finishing as runner up to OES the previous four seasons.

“We knew it was going to be a tight one,” Dorough said. “It always is with OES. Every game the last couple of years has been close with them.”

Oregon Episcopal School (11-3, with losses only to Catlin Gabel and 6A state champion Grant) started the match strongly and created two quality chances in the first 25 minutes. Macy Fry, Catlin Gabel’s terrific junior keeper, was up the task, once coming off of her line to smother a loose ball and the next diving, Superman style, to deflect Etti Teherani-Ami’s cross.

Catlin Gabel (14-2-1) also had its chances in an end-to-end first half. In the 14th minute, Kendrick Dahlin, who was the best player on the field over the first 40 minutes with her speed and dribbling ability, chipped a ball over the crossbar off of an indirect free kick from 25 yards out. One minute later, a scramble ensued in front of the OES’ net. Charlotte Long finally collected the loose ball and found space from 10 yards out, but Gabrielson was positioned well and gathered the ball in confidently.

The turf field created another Catlin Gabel scoring chance later in the half. Grace Mueller’s free kick from 50 yards away found its way into the box and took a high hop. It surprised Gabrielson, but the tall sophomore was agile enough to leap high and make the save.

“You get into the final and playing on a long, narrow turf field; it changes the dynamics for both teams,” Wolvert explained. “This field changes what both teams do. The play has to be more direct. The wet conditions make the ball play fast. The field is hard so the ball is always skipping and bouncing. The technical ability of the players to have a good, clean touch comes and goes in this environment. The game becomes gritty and scrappy and it becomes which team works hard and battles and which team is going to get the lucky bounce.”

While both teams escaped unscathed in the first half, Catlin Gabel created terrific chances for itself the entire second half, starting in the first minute, when Ye sent a dangerous cross in front of the goal mouth. Lola Diaz-Gonzalez also was a threat up front for Catlin Gabel, while tall, lanky Anne Hendrickson gave OES a spark with her long runs with the ball.

In the 44th minute, Catlin Gabel got the break it needed, when OES was called for a hand ball in the box. Campbell Swaim took the penalty kick and drove the ball hard and low to Gabrielson’s right. It was the kind of strike that would score 99 percent of the time, but Gabrielson anticipated well, dove to her right and got both mitts on it, keeping the ball out of the net.

“Lucky guess, honestly,” Gabrielson said. “It was a really good PK. I think it did change the momentum for a little bit and helped the team keep pushing through.”

Catlin Gabel recovered from the lost opportunity and continued to attack on OES’ side of the field.

“As the game grew I think our chances grew as well,” Dorough observed. “It was unfortunate to miss the penalty but I thought our girls kept putting the pressure on after that and it felt like a goal was coming the whole time.”

In the 59th minute, Ye created a good chance for Aanna Farhang, but Gabrielson was there. In the 60th minute, Kim, who had a strong second half from right back, fed Farhang, who found Long. Gabrielson was up to the task again.

In the 72nd minute, Ye created again, this time for Dahlin, but the senior’s lefty strike sailed over the crossbar. The Eagles had so many good chances in the half without scoring, making it easy to conclude that nothing was going to get by Gabrielson on this day…

…Which is what made Ye’s championship-clinching goal off of a throw in with 70 seconds remaining so stunningly unexpected.

“There were all kinds of deflections and flicks and hand balls that were called or weren’t called,” Wolvert observed. “A lot of 50-50 stuff, and it comes down to which team can capitalize on theirs. It’s bend until somebody breaks. They kept us under constant pressure and had us on our back foot for the majority of the second half. I told the girls I wouldn’t say we created enough chances to say we should have won the game, but I thought we were stout enough defensively that the game should have gone at least into overtime.”

Besides Gabrielson, who was named Player of the Match for the Aardvarks, Bullard, Robertson, Isabela Doumbia and Mia Perry were part of that stout defense that kept Catlin Gabel, which outshot OES 9-0 in the second half, from scoring until the waning seconds.

“We talked all week about leaving it all on the field and having no regrets,” Wolvert said. “We battled, and didn’t back down from the challenge or the moment. At the end you can leave with your head held high when you do that.”