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Cats break new ground with state title

Westview's storied soccer program finally lays claim to its first state crown
by: Miles Vance GOOOAALL — Westview junior Gustavo Gonzalez (left) hugs senior forward Jaime Velasco after Velasco’s goal with 2:29 left in overtime beat Grant 1-0 in the Class 6A state championship on Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium.

HILLSBORO - Westview had been close before.

Indeed, the Wildcat boys soccer team had knocked on the door of greatness twice previously, finishing second in the state at the end of both the 2005 and 2008 seasons.

But Saturday marked something new for Westview, something new and bigger and better and lasting. The Wildcats made their third trip to Oregon's big-school state championship the charm, beating Grant 1-0 at Hillsboro Stadium to secure the first state soccer crown in the school's 18-year history.

Westview did it with a deep and balanced lineup that featured 18 seniors and was led by Metro League Player of the Year Jaime Velasco (a senior forward and the school's single-season scoring leader), Jesse DeLeon (a senior midfielder), Gregg Anderson (a senior midfielder) and Matt Eden (a senior defender).

For Westview's seniors, Saturday's result - which also avenged a 3-1 loss to Grant in the 2008 title contest - was the perfect end to their final high school campaigns.

'I just got to say 'Thank God,'' said senior midfielder Danny Segovia. 'We had to take it before we graduated. It is special.'

'We worked really hard this season and it all paid off,' said DeLeon, a first-team all-Metro selection.

And that payoff made all the difference for a program that has long been one of the state's best. Indeed, this year's team completed a three-year arc that saw the team reach the state quarterfinals in 2009 (where it lost to eventual state champ South Salem 4-3 in penalty kicks), advance to the semifinals a year ago (where it lost to Beaverton 2-0), and then cap that run with its first-ever state championship.

All that, however, is just the tip of the iceberg of Westview's longstanding success on the soccer pitch. While this year's team followed the leadership of second-year head coach Tom Lathrop to the promised land, the program flourished almost from its beginning back in 1994 under its first head coach, Jim Lekas.

Indeed, the Wildcats made the playoffs in just the second year of Westview's existence - losing 4-0 to South Medford back in 1995 - and started a 14-year streak of reaching soccer's second season way back in 1999.

There were notable highlights along the way, including those two state-title game appearances, two other state semifinal berths, and four other trips to the state quarterfinals, and a huge cadre of great players who have worn Westview's blue, red and white colors.

While Velasco and DeLeon will likely earn a spot among Oregon's best when the 2011 all-state voting takes place, they'll be following in the footsteps of former stars such as Erik Hurtado (a former Metro League Player of the Year who was also a two-time Oregon Player of the Year in 2007-08) and Ryan Fitzgerald (the Metro and Oregon Player of the Year in 2005).

It was this year's Westview team, though, that finally broke through, and the 2011 Wildcats knew why.

'I think in past years there's been great players at Westview,' Anderson said. 'But I think this year, we all put ourselves on the same level. All equals, no double standards for anyone. That was new.'

'I think what set us off from all the other teams was senior leadership,' Segovia added. 'We just wanted it so bad.'