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Urbanowicz makes her mark

THREE-SPORT AWARD - Gresham senior helps soccer team to league title and track team to second at state
by: David Ball Gresham's Erin Urbanowicz wins our

It was the final game of the regular season, and Gresham wasn't supposed to be here. Didn't it know league titles were reserved for the private-school giants? Well, I suppose the Gophers could start the day atop the standings, but when the clock expired, Central Catholic would be ready to grab the trophy.

The murmurs were out there, but Gresham senior goalie wouldn't listen to any of it.

Instead, she found her spot between the pipes and turned in a stellar performance that left the Rams walking off the field frustrated. She maintained a 1-1 draw by racing off the line and intercepting a series of dangerous balls during the final 20 minutes, as Central's attack grew more and more aggressive.

Just a year removed from missing the playoffs, Gresham found itself as league champs for the first time since 1993.

'We proved that you didn't need recruits and stuff to get it done, all you need is a full team and we had that,' Erin said. 'That's what I love about soccer, it takes all 11 people to be successful.'

A league title seemed a long way off early in th eyear when the team lost two of its first three matches, including a 2-1 setback to Centennial to start league. But Urbanowicz and the Gophers' backline wouldn't surrender another goal through the rest of September.

She finished the season will all-league honors, giving up just four goals, while making 52 saves.

'We had plenty of shots on us, but she had the ability to change the outcome of the game,' Gophers' coach Kathy Childress said.

That included when the stakes were at their highest, stretching out for a diving stop early in a penalty-kick shootout to help Gresham past Beaverton 3-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

'Putting a freshman in goal is a tough spot for anyone, but by her senior year she absolutely owned the field,' Childress said. 'Her ability to pull the team together was remarkable, and she was just fearless going after the ball.'

She paid for her daring style with her share of scrapes and bruises.

But the most brutal collision came at the end of her junior year when she was fighting to protect a 1-0 lead in Hood River. The Eagles were on a breakaway when Urbanowicz raced off the line and slid down to steal the ball of the striker's foot.

While she made the save, she also took a cleat to the face and walked to the sideline bloodied. She stayed on the bench for only a few minutes before racing back to the goal and finishing the match.

'The adrenaline wore off on the bus ride home, and my face was really hurting,' Erin said. 'My parents took me into the doctor, and it turned out my nose was broken.'

The Gophers' surprise run to the soccer title was a huge accomplishment, but not the biggest of her senior year.

That came during track and field season when she and two teammates (Haley Crouser and Ify Onyima) went to Eugene and lifted the Gophers to a second-place finish at the 6A state meet. Urbanowicz piled up eight points by taking fourth in the discus and sixth in the shot put.

'She just worked hard and improved every year,' Gresham throws coach Gary Stautz said. 'When she came out this spring, she was dominant in her events. She has a great ability to pick up technical things. She'll see something on film and go right back out there and fix it on her next throw.'

Urbanowicz, a forward, was team captain during basketball season.

She will be attending Hamline University (Minn.) in the fall, attracted by the school's stellar pre-med program. Urbanowicz graduated with a 3.98 Grade Point Average, while a member of Gresham's elite International Baccalaureate program, which has given her a full term of college credits before she even arrives on campus.

She plans to compete in soccer and track for the Pipers.

Look for a list of other school-by-school nominees in the June 15 edition of The Outlook.