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Despite playing without two of its all-league performers, La Salle Prep came together to secure a 1-1 tie with Jesuit.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - La Salle Prep sophomore Vance Sheffield (10) scored the Falcons' only goal in a 1-1 tie with Jesuit on Thursday, Sept. 1, at La Salle Catholic College Prep in Milwaukie.

For the La Salle Prep boys soccer team, the road to a third-consecutive state title was never going to be completely smooth.

Still, even with the squad a bit shorthanded, these Falcons showed that they're just as ready to fly as the flocks that came before them. On Thursday, Sept. 1, in the team's home opener, La Salle Prep played 6A powerhouse Jesuit to a 1-1 tie.

"It was awesome," said La Salle Prep sophomore Vance Sheffield, who opened up the scoring less than 10 minutes into the game. "Great fanbase — and a great Jesuit team. Obviously, they've won a lot of matches.

"It took a lot for us to rally together," the sophomore said. "We've got a bunch of new guys on the team. It was great to be out here for our first home game, so hopefully we can keep it going."

Despite the strength of the Jesuit program, which has won more state championships than any other boys soccer team in the state, La Salle Prep did not shrink from the occasion.

Instead, the Falcons came together to earn a very solid result with many new faces on the team — and without two of their best players. Senior midfielder Quentin Strange missed the game for personal reasons, while junior midfielder Kevin Serrano-Maldonado is still on a trip to Brazil. Both were all-leaguers in 2021.

"We definitely knew we had to battle coming in," Sheffield said. "We were ready, though. I thought we played great — we fought, played good defense and poked one in."

Sheffield, who scored the state title-winning goal against Wilsonville last season, led the Falcon attack throughout the game. Meanwhile, La Salle Prep senior captain Finbar O'Brien held down the defense.

"They were putting pressure on us all game, and we kept it tied, so definitely good for our defense," said O'Brien of holding the Crusaders to just one goal, a header from Jesuit's Richard Anderson off a corner kick in the 34th minute. "We'll get some players back that we're missing today, and then we'll go on and possess it and keep on attacking and build from this moving forward."

As for his role as team captain, O'Brien knows that his responsibilities carry over off the field, too.

"Just making sure that everyone feels connected," said the senior of his job as captain. "It's not the same group as last year, so we don't have the same team chemistry. We're still trying to build that up, make everyone feel welcome and keep that winning mentality. Every day in practice, we're always trying to push each other to be the best that we can."

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - La Salle Prep senior captain Finbar O'Brien (13) and sophomore attacker Vance Sheffield (10) both stated after the 1-1 tie with Jesuit on Sept. 1 that the Falcons are looking to win a third-consecutive state title.

In years past, when La Salle Prep has been able to establish that team chemistry and play at its best, the results have been staggeringly successful. The Falcons hoisted the state championship trophy in both 2019 and 2021, while the state tournament was not played in 2020.

Now, to hear O'Brien and Sheffield tell it, the goal for La Salle Prep in 2022 is crystal clear.

"The goal is obviously to win another state championship," O'Brien said. "Run that back again."

"We want to win state again," Sheffield echoed. "That's what we want to do. And we want to grow this team for years to come."

After staying even with one of the state's best teams, La Salle Prep is well on its way to getting there.

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