On a night usually reserved for ghouls and goblins, it was a Blue Jay that haunted Webster Groves.
Washington goalkeeper Ottmar Escalante shut out the Statesmen on Halloween night as Blue Jay soccer earned a 1-0 victory to advance beyond the sectional round for the first time in the program’s history.
Escalante was a flawless 11-11 in save chances on the night. The shutout was his ninth of the season, giving him sole possession of the single-season school record for shutouts in a season.
Coming into the game, Escalante had been tied for the record with the team’s other starting goalkeeper, Christian Longseth. Longseth was the one to set the record a year ago and then tied it with eight shutouts again this season.
The two have split time in the net this year with three shared shutouts, five solos from Longseth and now six from Escalante. It was Longseth who got the call and earned the victory in the district championship round against Pacific, 2-1, the previous week. Escalante shut out Union, 2-0, in the district semifinals.
Opponents have not scored against Escalante in his last four outings, which include three solo shutouts and a scoreless half against Pacific in the regular season.
In his junior year, Escalante started this season new to Washington after transferring from San Diego, joining a team with an already established senior goalie who had helped lead the Blue Jays to the school’s first district title the previous year.
“I’m new to this school so I had to prove to my team that I’m worth playing for,” Escalante said. “I believe I’ve proved that in previous games and I just kept pushing. I’m glad that we got all the way out here. This is probably my last year here because we’ll be moving back, but I’m just glad we made it here.”
With the success of both his keepers, Washington Head Coach Derek Schriewer is faced with a tough decision of who to put in front of the net each game. Either one could get the call Saturday when the Blue Jays host North County in the state quarterfinal match.
“Each game, I don’t make a decision until I show up to be completely honest,” Schriewer said. “I see how they warm up and I trust either one in the game and they’re both very good goalies.”
For the sectional game, Schriewer gave the nod to Escalante, feeling that he was a better answer for the Statesmen’s style.
“I had to make a tough decision today,” Schriewer said. “The way the game went and the way they played, it lended more toward Ottmar’s style. Christian’s a real strong keeper and can battle things in the box, but it felt like they were more of a finesse style team and Ottmar’s very good in those situations.”
Schriewer said Escalante’s sure-handedness also played into his decision because he would not give the Statesmen an opportunity to slip one in off a rebound.
Despite not giving Webster Groves any second chances, Escalante received some catcalls of “butterfingers” from the Statesmen’s student section, which was positioned in the section of stands closest to the Washington goal, in the final minutes of the second half after a couple of saves that were bobbled, but never left his possession.
Those students later got a kiss blown their way by the Washington keeper after a couple of key stops in a row.
“Every student section is always crazy, especially in a hard game like this,” Escalante said. “I just love it. It gets me pumped, but I’m not the only guy that loves that. All of our team loves that. It just gets us more excited. Then in the end, when we come out with the win, it makes it all worth it. I just love the fans and the haters. They motivate me to push my best and right there I was glad I got those saves and as soon as I got up, I looked at them because I know they were looking. I’m just glad to prove them wrong.”
Coming into the game, the Statesmen had won four in a row. That included an upset win over the defending state champions, Rockwood Summit, in their district championship.
“A shutout against a high-calibre team like this — it’s not easy to get,” Escalante said. “It just makes me more confident in our next game.”
Whoever of the two draws the assignment in goal against North County will be facing a team that averages 4.2 points per game and has not been shut out in any of its three losses.