The OPRF soccer team now has another piece of hardware to add to their trophy case?#34;a regional championship.
The Huskies cruised into the State sectional last week with a dominating 2-0 victory over the Charles H. Prosser Falcons. The Huskies (14-4-4) dictated play throughout the match, controlling possession and using the width of the field to keep the Falcons on their heels. First-year OPRF coach Paul Wright thought his squad matched up well against Prosser.
"From watching their last game against St. Joe's, (Prosser) did a lot of chip and chase," he said. "But, if you look at our defenders (Aaron) Press, (Jared) Rifis and (Bradley) Clark all three are really fast and can keep pace with any of their attackers. So, chip and chase isn't going to work against us. They played a lot of balls today that our midfield just controlled and played back out. In the first half, they had the ball for about a total of six to eight minutes. I was really pleased with our play."
The Huskies' first goal came with 18:17 remaining in the first half, when Prosser goalkeeper Marti Zavala misplayed a cross in the box. The Falcon goalie came way off his line, but failed to grab the ball. OPRF sophomore midfielder Patrick Koller took full advantage of the miscue, calmly chipping the loose ball over Zavala and some Prosser defenders to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
"We knew coming into the game that he (Zavala) took chances and came out a lot," Wright said. "So, instead of playing a lot of chips and through balls, we worked on playing our crosses instead, which led to the first goal. We also knew that Prosser's conditioning suffered a bit toward the end of their game against St. Joe's, so we knew if we kept the field spread it would work in our favor."
OPRF struck again about eight minutes later when sophomore forward Drew Golz crisply crossed the ball to Jared Reddrick, who one-timed the ball past a helpless Zavala. The play began courtesy of a hefty throw-in from Press, who gave the Falcons fits all day with his 25-yard heaves. Despite being dominated in the first half, Prosser showed its scrappy side in the second half. With just 4:43 remaining OPRF was called for a hand-ball in its own box. But, OPRF goalie Jim Gullo was true to the task, diving to the left to knock the penalty shot away to keep the 2-0 lead intact.
Senior Jared Rifis, who anchors the Huskies defense, commented on the win and Gullo's big save.
"We were definitely the better team today, but I don't think this was our best game by any means," he said. "I really think Gullo saving the penalty shot in the last five minutes was huge, because it kept our two-goal lead. That really changed the momentum of the game."
Now, Wright must prepare his team for its next challenge, but in the meantime he said he would relish his first regional championship.
"Winning a regional championship really feels good, I have to admit," he said. "The boys worked really hard all year and bought into the program early in the season. The parents have been very supportive, which has made a huge difference, especially considering there have been four coaches in four years. A lot of people stepped up this year to help and to make sure things were done the right way. If we come to play, I really think we can go all the way."
The Huskies took on Morton last night (Tuesday, after deadline). If victorious the team would advance to play either West Suburban (Silver) Conference foe York or Lyons Township in the LT Sectional championship on Thursday (7 p.m.).