Jesuit girls soccer beats Mountainside, wins third straight title
The dynasty was destined to be.
The Crusader three-peat, no easy feat at the Class 6A classification, is finished.
The Jesuit girls' soccer team, so dynamic, so dangerous, so dominant and disciplined the past three years, cemented its 6A empire by beating Metro League chum Mountainside 3-0 in the 6A state championship match at Hillsboro Stadium on Nov. 16 to win its third straight state crown. Senior forward Callan Harrington was outstanding in her Crusader curtain call, scoring two goals and dishing out an assist to Taylor Krueger. Jesuit senior goalie Mary Votava had three saves, all at the expense Mountainside superstar forward Nedya Sawan who fought like hell to give her Maverick team a chance. Jesuit senior midfielder Jaiden McClellan kept things calm and organized on both sides of the pitch and Ella Nelson helped put pressure on the frame with two shots. This senior class, instrumental in helping Jesuit flex on the state for seasons on end, completed their Crusader tenures with three first place medals, a trio of trophy ceremonies, and four years of long-lasting memories and forever friendships.
"We put so much work into this season and it showed tonight…we were able to show who we were," Harrington said. "Mountainside brought it. They're one of the best teams we've played. This was game really high intensity and that really motivated us. But we put hard work into practice. We motivated each other. That's what separated us in the end."
"It's the end of an era, but the rest of the team really sent us out on a high note," Votava said. "We expected it to be really hard-fought right off the bat. We knew that once we got on the board it would be okay. We took the time to talk to each other and like 'Hey, settle down, play your game, but still enjoy the moment'. We made it to the final. We had nothing left to prove, so we wanted to enjoy it and have fun. That calmed our nerves."
Mountainside played Jesuit tougher than any Oregon team has in the past two years. They didn't use hoaxy gimmicks or cheap tactics to stay in the game. The Mavericks played the Crusaders straight up for 80 minutes, competing their tails off without resorting to cockamamie machinations. Mountainside let off 10 shots, three of which were on goal. Sawan had two of those looks, one of which skimmed the crossbar in the first half, the other thudded off the left post in the last 10 minutes of action.
It was a highly commendable effort, a challenge that Jesuit welcomed and relished. Two near misses, which is much more than most teams could even dream about notching against the vaunted Crusader defense. A pair of close-range headers were just off the mark.
Not bad considering Mountainside just started playing at the varsity level last season. In two years, the Mavericks reached the 6A semis and the title bout in consecutive seasons.
"This season was so much more than we ever could have imagined," Sawan said. "The team clicked on a completely different level. We bonded so well, and we all had the same vision in mind. We executed almost every goal we had. We didn't miss our last one (winning a state title) by much and we're just super proud of that."
Sawan said Mountainside wanted to throw the proverbial first blow against the entrenched champs and did so. Kylah Williams made the first tackle of the game. Sawan let off the match's first shot. Mountainside earned the first corner kick. O'Billovich blocked two Crusader shots in the first 20 minutes The Mavericks were the early aggressors.
"We were like 'Wow, this is going to be a tough game,'" Sawan said. "We matched them super well and we're super proud of ourselves. I think we kind of shocked the stands, too. People thought Jesuit was going to handle us, but we weren't going to let that happen. We popped off a bit. When we look back at this, we're only going to be happy."
"We were a little bit underestimated and we used that to our advantage," O'Billovich said. "We played really hard and put everything out there. This is a good place to end it."
However, by air or by land Harrington can give you a goal how you want it when you want it. Mountainside's defense did everything within the rules of play to bottle up the all-time great. The Mavericks marked Jesuit's scoring savant with Kylah Williams who knocked Harrington to the withering Hillsboro Stadium twice with physical tackles. They swarmed her with numbers and challenged her runs with primal defense. For 30 minutes the plan worked. But greatness can only be bottled up for so long. And with 10 minutes left, Harrington snuck behind Mountainside's packed-in defense on a corner kick, leaped to meet Samantha Heinsen' long pass in the air and headed the ball into the right corner of the net to give Jesuit a 1-0 lead.
"That pass was perfect," Harrington said. "We practice those all the time. Nothing felt better. We needed that."
Harrington's second goal was more of a foot race to the finish. Ten minutes into the second half, a slow-rolling ball came O'Billovich's way and the keeper ran out to meet it, hoping beat Harrington, who was closing quickly, to the spot. But Harrington is never one to give up on a play. Never has, never will be. With a Herculean burst of speed, Harrington beat O'Billovich to the ball by a hair, got her right foot on the ball and pushed it underneath the Maverick keeper. With nobody protecting the net, the rock rolled 20 yards into the goal to give Jesuit a 2-0 lead. As the Crusaders mobbed their Metro League Player of the Year in celebration, Harrington looked toward Mountainside's suddenly silent student section, cuffed her left hand, raised it to her left ear and leaned the Maverick throng's way just a bit, as if she was wondering where all the noise went.
"(The Mountainside) crowd was nagging me all night on the left side, so I wanted to show them who the best team in the state is," Harrington said. "I felt that energy and I loved it. I definitely feed off that. I love to be tested and I love to respond in my own way."
Mountainside tried to bully with combat Harrington to no avail. The crowd tried to get in her head with catcalls and slander about skill. No dice. If anything, the schemes just irked a scorer who needs no added incentive to detonate.
"When Callan gets pissed, she's unstoppable," Krueger said. "She's a dominant player, one of the best I've ever played with."
Krueger got in on the scoring action when Harrington attracted a host of Maverick defenders and dropped off a pass to her awaiting teammate along the right side, who crushed home the goal to go up 3-0.
With Harrington's second score, the future University of Washington forward passed Hillsboro legend Tiffany Milbrett for most goals scored in a season. Milbrett ended her high school career with 54 goals, then played for the University of Portland and the United States national team. Harrington finished her season with 55 scores. Not only did Harrington break the all-time single-season scoring record but she set a new state record with 133 goals scored in her legendary career. The Crusader is now in select company, an exclusive club that also includes former Jesuit great Sara Bagby atop the all-time state scoring leaders.
"It's an honor," Harrington said. "I never thought I'd be remotely in the same boat as Tiffany. I give it up to my teammates. I don't think I'd be as successful as I am without them. They know who I am and what my strong suites are. That played me in tonight and that's why I was successful."
Individually, Jesuit is loaded with club players, both those that Division One bound next year or will be in the seasons to come. Each is skilled, savvy and experienced from playing year-round. But talent alone doesn't define this program. There is a certain professionalism in the way they get ready, the ways they practice and methods they play. Jesuit can play "boot ball" or put the ball on the ground and play possession. Pass around the pitch or take defenders on one-on-one. There was flair and dexterity to this team. Yet, they never got bored with the basics, starting at the ground level.
"We're always at practice on time, we're always wearing our gear, we're always prepared," Krueger said. "That's brought a lot to our team."
Team harmony hasn't been an issue during this reign, which is key when a squad possesses so much solo talent. Some of that chemistry can be attributed to a time-honored "Queen B" tradition that dates back years. Before every game, Jesuit blasted "Halo" by Beyoncé on a portable speaker, formed a huge circle, links arms and belts out the classic tune at the top of their lungs. It's a bonding experience that Votava said formulated a sort of sisterhood that carries over to the field.
"The first we did that my freshman year, I had goosebumps, it was incredible," Votava said. "I kind of had to hold in the tears today because it's my last time. Along with the words of the song…we are always there for each other on and off the field. No matter where you are, you know somebody has your back, We're a family and that's what 'Halo' does for us. It centers us. It grounds us in the belief that this is more than just a game. It's about each other."
The ritual is the last thing Jesuit does before hitting the pitch. It sends them out on a cohesive, altruistic high and carries them through the ups and downs of a game.
"It's a feeling, we all feel it and we're all together in it," Krueger said. "It's meant a lot to our team. We all love each other. We're not just players, we're a family. It's that passion that gets us through."
Jesuit finished the season 19-0-1. The Crusaders are 58-0-1 the past three years, haven't lost a game since 2016 and have outscored their foes 237-7. Mountainside loses Sawan and O'Billovich to graduation, two indispensable players who played their best in the big games. These two seniors carried the Mavericks in the quarters against West Linn and against South Eugene in the semis. Sawan, despite ample defensive attention every single match, was unstoppable. O'Billovich was the gutsy, athletic keeper who never backed down from a one-versus-one and could keep Mountainside's defense afloat on her own. They will be sorely missed, to say the least. But the Southridge transfers helped put Mountainside on the map. Head coach Travis Schoonover has won 28 games in two years and brings back most of his squad in 2020.
"People should know this program is going places," Sawan said.
"When teams play Mountainside, they should be a little bit nervous and practice and focus on that game," O'Billovich said. "(Schoonver) has turned us into a team that's not afraid and plays together. That's what we did tonight and that's what this team is going to do."
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