Top-seeded Oregon likely wasn’t expecting a gut check against No.16-seed Racine Park.
But that’s exactly what the Panthers got on Tuesday.
The Oregon boys soccer team responded to some first-half adversity to roll to a 4-0 win over Racine Park in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal game on Tuesday, Oct. 19, at Huntoon Field in Oregon.
“It was kind of a gut check,” Oregon head coach Chris Mitchell said. “It was like man, the No.16 seed has us tied at half. Coaching staff kept our calm, talked about some options to give us some more looks on the goal. Proud that they kept their composure.”
The Panthers got off to a better start in the regional final as a first-minute goal lifted Oregon to a 3-0 win against Burlington on Saturday, Oct. 23, at Huntoon Field.
Oregon (19-0-2) will host DeForest in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal on Thursday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.
Oregon 4, Racine Park 0
The No.1-seeded Panthers came into the game unbeaten on the season with a 17-0-2 record. Racine Park entered the regional semifinal with a 2-13-1 record. But at halftime Oregon — ranked No. 2 in Wissports’ Division 2 rankings — was deadlocked at 0-0 thanks to a disciplined defensive effort from Racine Park.
It was an all-in defensive strategy for Racine Park, who were likely trying to play for penalty kicks by putting all of its players on the defensive side of the field.
The strategy worked in the first half as Oregon got plenty of shots up, but didn’t get many dangerous looks in the first 40 minutes.
“I think we got a little frustrated in the first half,” Mitchell said. “They had 10 guys inside the box. We were struggling a bit to find the right space at the right time. There is no magic wand you can stick at that, right. You just need to keep getting the ball inside the box and take advantage of a mistake.”
Oregon saw another team earlier in the season implement a similar defensive strategy, but not to the level Racine Park executed in the first half, according to senior captain Eli Lehmann.
“Props to their coach, they did a great job, they stayed strong. They just stayed in the box” Lehmann said with a chuckle. “I hate when I play against it, but props to them, they executed it well.”
Hate it or love it, it didn’t take long for the Panthers to figure out the strategy coming out of the break.
Oregon drew a foul inside the box to earn a penalty kick two minutes into the second half. Senior Alex Rodriguez netted the PK to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
Rodriguez added another score, while Max Westfield also scored a pair of second-half goals to send Oregon to the regional final.
“The number one thing was that we needed to play our game,” Lehmann said. “I feel like we got too wrapped around that everyone was inside the box. It was almost like we couldn’t adapt to it in game. I think our coaches did a good job, they talked us through it.”
Rodriguez and junior Colin Vandermause had assists in the victory.
Oregon 3, Burlington 0
There was no struggle to score early against No.9-seeded Burlington as Oregon struck in the first minute of play.
Junior Casey Schoenecker got the Panthers on the board with a goal off a corner kick.
Oregon took its 1-0 lead into the break.
Out of halftime junior Noah Malcook — who assisted on the first goal — scored on an assist from Rodriguez to make it 2-0 in the 61st. Lehmann found junior Mason Diercks in the 66th to extend the advantage to 3-0.