The last two times Elkhorn and Oregon met in a WIAA boys soccer sectional title match, penalty kicks determined the outcome.
On Saturday afternoon, Elkhorn made sure it didn’t come to that again.
The Elks dominated play from the onset, scoring two first-half goals and cruising to a 2-0 victory over the defending Division 2 state champion Panthers.
In winning its 21st straight match, Elkhorn (21-1) advanced to the state tournament for the third time in program history and the first time since 2016. The Elks play in a state semifinal game Friday at Uihlein Park in Milwaukee. The four Division 2 state teams will be seeded and match times set today.
“The message all year was finish the fight,” Elkhorn senior Devon Davey said. “They beat us last year, so all we wanted was to get back here this year and play them again.
“Coach just told us to play our game. We were controlling the pace and limiting their key guys, which was huge, and then when we put those first two goals in, the stress was off.”
Elkhorn dictated play by staying on the offensive in the first half and was rewarded with a pair of goals.
Ben Vogel found the back of the net first. The senior corralled a loose ball off a corner kick and whistled a shot past keeper Coltrane LoBreglio at 22:45. Gavino Perez picked up an assist on the play by freeing the ball to Vogel during a scramble in front of the net.
An Oregon miscue deep in its own zone led to Elkhorn’s second goal. The Panthers had a chance to clear the ball to midfield, but the defender whiffed on the kick and the Elks capitalized. Alec Birbaum controlled the loose ball, took two steps and blistered a shot past a diving LoBreglio for 2-0 Elkhorn lead at 38:06.
“This is the fifth time in the last seven years playing Oregon, and I thought this was the best chance we had of all the times of beating them,” Elkhorn coach BZ Kayser said. “Getting those two goals the first half was key. You have to remember, those are the first two goals we scored in the five games we’ve played against them other than our overtime goal last year.
“We had five kids that had the heartbreak of losing to them last year on penalty kicks, and that really motivated them for the last year. They’ve been working for this moment.”
The Elks beat the Panthers on penalty kicks to get to state in 2016. Oregon beat Elkhorn in sectional finals in 2013 and 2014.
On Saturday, neither team had many scoring chances in the second half.
Elkhorn keeper Preston Ward kept his shutout intact by pulling down a point-blank shot out of the air at 83:58. Ward finished with 16 saves, but the defense in front of him made the majority of those saves fairly routine.
Headed back to state for the third time in his coaching career, Kayser said his team is poised for a run at a gold ball.
“We’ve been building momentum all season to get to this point,” Kayser said. “Our experience has really shined and come through.
“The way last season ended has really been a driving force this season.”
ELKHORN 2, OREGON 0
Elkhorn 2 0—2
E—Ben Vogel (Gavino Perez) 22:45. E —Alec Birbaum 38:06.
Saves—Coltrane LoBreglio (O) 10, Preston Ward (E) 16