Duncan Morgan was beaten.
He had guessed the right direction to dive—his right—but the shot had too much power behind it.
He was beaten.
Oregon’s senior goalkeeper could only watch as the ball flew over his outstretched limbs and toward its destination, carrying the fate of two teams along with it.
A goal would send the penalty shootout to a seventh round. A miss or save would send the Oregon Panthers to state and leave the Elkhorn Elks as sectional runner-ups.
Duncan Morgan was beaten. The crossbar was not.
Sean Ahler, the postseason hero whose last two goals had extended Elkhorn’s season, dropped to his knees as the ball bounced away.
“It’s heartbreak city for someone,” Elkhorn boys soccer coach BZ Kayser said after his side fell 5-4 in a penalty shootout after playing Oregon to a 1-1 draw during 90 minutes of regulation and a pair of 10-minute overtimes in a WIAA Division 2 sectional final Saturday.
The final result wasn’t surprising given how evenly-matched the Elks and Panthers appeared to be.
Neither side had given up a postseason goal entering Saturday. Oregon (19-2-1) was unbeaten in its last 18 matches, while Elkhorn (17-2-2) had not lost since its season opener against Whitefish Bay.
The Elks had the majority of goal-scoring chances during regulation but couldn’t break Oregon despite an 8-0 advantage in shots on goal and a 9-0 advantage in corner kicks. The Panthers hung tough even after losing starting defenders Colin McCombs and Ian Moran to injuries in the second half.
Oregon nudged in front when Madison Conduah scored just 48 seconds into overtime—ending the Elks’ nine-match shutout streak.
But a few minutes later, Elkhorn found an equalizer thanks to Ahler’s volley from about 10 yards away at 97:07.
Neither team threatened in the second overtime, setting up a tense finish.
The first four kick-takers succeeded in the shootout before Morgan stopped Elkhorn’s Vince Umnus.
Trailing 4-3 going into the fifth round, Elkhorn keeper Alex Hergott needed a save to keep the Elks alive. The lanky senior dove to his left to knock away Zachary Roskos’ shot and pumped his fists as his teammates celebrated.
Caden Reece scored to even the shootout, 4-4.
Oregon’s Zachary Schultz beat Hergott in the sixth round and Ahler’s miss ended the match.
“He did the right thing,” Kayser said of Ahler’s spot kick. “He went right down the middle because the goalkeeper was going each side all the way. He’s an inch or two from that ball hitting the pipe and going back in.
“I told him, ‘Hey, we’re not in this situation if you don’t score (in overtime).”
If it weren’t for Ahler, Elkhorn’s season might have ended Thursday. The junior midfielder scored the only goal as the Elks defeated Waunakee to earn their shot against the Panthers, who have made four state appearances since 2011.
“We felt prepared,” said Morgan, who stopped eight shots during regulation and overtime. “It’s nerve-wracking. It always is. You love to do it with the guys you love standing next to you.”
The Panthers weathered Elkhorn’s pressure and pushed forward more often in the second half—though they didn’t record their first shot on goal until Conduah’s goal in overtime.
“Elkhorn played a really good first half,” Oregon coach Chris Mitchell said. “We made a few changes—nothing big, more conceptual-type things at half and made the second half ours.”
- Elkhorn missed out on returning to the state tournament for the second time in three seasons. The Elks’ only losses this season came against ranked opponents in Whitefish Bay and Oregon.
“The two teams we lost to this year—I’ve got a feeling will be playing in the state championship,” Kayser said.
- Oregon had to play a true road game at Elkhorn despite being the top seed in its sectional. The Panthers, who entered the match with 15 clean sheets, were unfazed and did enough in the penalty shootout—the ultimate toss-up—to advance.
- Oregon should be one of the top two seeds for the Division 2 state tournament. Coaches will seed the tournament today. The Panthers will play in a semifinal Thursday at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee. Oregon is looking to get back on top after losing to Whitefish Bay, 6-1, in last year’s title game.
- Elkhorn will lose seven seniors, including starting-lineup anchors Luke Umnus, Vince Umnus, Adam Reigle, Reece and Hergott.
OREGON 1, ELKHORN 1
Oregon 0 0 1 0—1
Elkhorn 0 0 1 0—1
Oregon wins penalty shootout 5-4
O—Madison Conduah, 90:48. E—Sean Ahler, 97:07.
Saves—Duncan Morgan (O) 9, Alex Hergott (E) 0. Shots—Oregon 5, Elkhorn 14. Shots on goal—Oregon 1, Elkhorn 10. Corners—Oregon 0, Elkhorn 9. Offsides—Oregon 2, Elkhorn 0. Fouls—Oregon 16, Elkhorn 16.