by: COURTESY OF OREGON EPISCOPAL SCHOOL - The Oregon Episcopal School girls soccer team is set to play Valley Catholic on Saturday for the Class 3A/2A/1A title. The game starts at 10:30 a.m. at Liberty High.It's all come together nicely again for coach Scot Thompson and the Oregon Episcopal School girls soccer team.

The Aardvarks have a shot at winning their third consecutive state title, are ranked No. 1 in Class 3A/2A/1A and are 14-1-2 going into Saturday's title match with Valley Catholic (11-3-1), 10:30 a.m. at Liberty High.

The young and reloaded Oregon Episcopal squad is 2-0 against Valley Catholic this season, with home and away wins of 1-0 and 2-0.

Saturday's game will bring together the two teams that played in the 2012 final, won 2-1 by OES at Liberty.

And while former Portland Timbers defender Thompson, OES' seventh-year coach, knows his team won't be handed the trophy, he likes his girls' chances.

"Valley Catholic knows us. We know them," Thompson says. "I don't want to sound cocky or overconfident, but I think we can beat any team at our level when we're playing well. Valley can win the game Saturday. We can win the game Saturday."

Thompson says he liked the way his team handled its semifinal, a 1-0 win Tuesday at home over St. Mary's of Medford.

"St. Mary's gave us a really good test and played a really good game," he says.

It was the third year in a row the teams had met in the semis, and OES scored late in the first half -- the only goal allowed all season by the St. Mary's regular starting group in the back line.

Mickaelah McKinney-Griggs won a ball in the corner and crossed into the goal box, where fellow OES sophomore Tess Oberholtzer scored on a half-volley.

McKinney-Griggs has 13 goals and three assists this season.

The Aardvarks' other top scorer is junior outside midfielder Carolyn Ruoff (13 goals, six assists), the co-player of the year in Special District 1.

"Tireless. Fearless. An attacking midfielder who is not afraid to take people on," Thompson says.

Another junior, midfielder Catherine Leon, scored in OES' 1-0 win over Valley Catholic on Oct. 1, with a long-range boot.

"That was one of the best games we've played all year," Thompson says. "We had a lot of possession, a lot of seven, eight or nine passes with the ball, and we put good pressure on (Valley Catholic)."

In the Oct. 22 rematch, OES struck in the first few minutes.

"That I think set them back," Thompson says, of the Valiants.

The Aardvarks scored about 20 minutes later, and kept VC from mounting a comeback.

"We know that's not going to happen Saturday -- they're not going to allow (an early goal)," Thompson says.

Going into the season, Thompson wasn't sure if the Aardvarks would still be playing on Nov. 16.

"I didn't have high expectations," he says. "We lost a good group of seniors. A lot of our offense came from two of them, and we lost our starting goalkeeper."

As the team gathered for preseason training, Thompson asked for a show of hands: Who was interested in playing in goal?

He had two choices, "one girl who also was a lacrosse player and sophomore Rachel Haugh, who had played up front on the OES junior varsity the year before.

Thompson gave Haugh a whirl.

"She excelled in preseason," he says. And that was that.

With a solid back line of outside backs Harper Hayes, a senior, and Lily Massaro, a junior, and center backs Alex Stendah, a junior, and Claire Dunn, a senior, the OES defense has been at least as good as always.

"The defense has been pretty organized," Thompson says. "Those girls have played together for the past two years."

The Aardvarks have allowed seven goals in 2012 -- and that's including one each in the first two games against higher-level teams La Salle and Philomath. OES won both games 3-1 and then drew 0-0 with eventual PIL 5A co-champion Cleveland. The nonleague slate also included a game at Scappoose, which OES won 4-0.

"Our athletic director purposely scheduled the hardest preseason schedule he could get," Thompson says. "About three games into it, I was shaking my fist at him. But the games definitely helped make the team stronger going into our league season."

And that was impressive, considering that the core of the team this year is made up of sophomores and juniors.

"They just keep rising to the challenge," Thompson says.

One more challenge remains. Thompson admits that it can be difficult to beat a team three times in one season, but he likes the form his club is showing.

"Valley Catholic has a number of weapons," he says, "so it's a matter of who is able to keep the ball and who comes up with the best game on that day."

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