It's not how one starts, it's how one finishes.
Paul Laurence Dunbar and Boone County did best at finishing in Monday's season-opening Fayette County Soccer Spectacular at Bryan Station.
Boone County overcame a 3-1 deficit to edge Henry Clay 4-3 in the first match.
Dunbar then topped Ryle 3-1 in a match that was scoreless at intermission.
Being the start of the season, though, there's plenty of time for the losing teams to finish well.
Boone Co. 4, Henry Clay 3: Thomas Ueland's hat trick spotted Henry Clay a 3-1 halftime lead, but it was all Boone County after that.
"We just talked at halftime, and I think some guys were a little nervous — we have three starters returning from last year, so we had eight guys in there to start the game that hadn't played varsity before," winning coach Nate Browning said. "I just told them 'you guys are good players and we're getting outplayed right now. We've got the talent to compete with this team; we're just not going out and doing it.
"So we've got to get back to the basics ... and we've got to get a little tougher."
His players responded.
Evan O'Hara, who notched the Rebels' first-half goal, made it 3-2 on a long shot from the right wing with about 26 minutes left.
Boone tied about four minutes later, when Haven Borkowski converted on a cross.
Michael Carroll got the game winner with about seven minutes left, chipping a left-flank shot just inside the far post.
"We're a young team, and I think that it was kind of glaring there in the second half," Blue Devils Coach Tim Bernardi said. "We were just talking about how we've got to finish games. ... I hope we learned from it and come out (next time) and play better than we did tonight."
Ueland opened the scoring 3½ minutes in, nailing a shot from just beyond the 18.
He then tallied off a corner kick, but O'Hara countered about a minute later to make it 2-1 with 14½ minutes left in the half.
Ueland scored again with 5½ minutes left in the half.
Unofficially, Henry Clay outshot Boone 11-3 in the first half, but the Rebels dominated the second half 6-2.
"They got a little more physical with us in the second half," Bernardi said.
Dunbar 3, Ryle 1: The Bulldogs dominated the scoring chances, but couldn't convert until Luke Norris popped in a rebound with 35:10 left.
Ryle tied less than seven minutes later, when Sulieman Kayad turned at the 18 and uncorked a bull's-eye.
Dunbar had too much firepower, though, getting goals by Alex Lewis with 27:00 left and Tyler Joy-Brandon with 2:07 to play.
"It was a lot closer than 3-1," Bulldogs Coach Todd Bretz said. "They played very well. We were fortunate we finished our couple opportunities more than they did."
Actually, Dunbar had plenty of chances — unofficially a 15-6 edge in shots — and kept Ryle away from goalkeeper Nick Clark.
"It was definitely our defense holding strong," Dunbar back Caleb Clay said. "After we got a goal scored on us, we kind of got together and talked about it and said we needed to pick it up. After that, we picked it up and scored two more goals and put the other team away. It was great."
Dunbar played without standout Riley Calhoon, who was ill, and saw limited play from Nathan Jones, who is recovering from an injury.
"We've got a couple injuries, but everyone's got to be ready to step up at any time," Bretz said. "If you don't have depth, you can't be successful."
Boone Co. 4, Henry Clay 3
Goals—HC: Thomas Ueland 3; BC: Evan O'Hara 2, Haven Borkowski, Michael Carroll. Goalkeepers—HC: David Vasquez; BC: Brendan Benjamin. Records—HC: 0-1; BC: 1-0.
Paul Laurence Dunbar 3, Ryle 1
Goals—PLD: Luke Norris, Alex Lewis, Tyler Joy-Brandon; R: Sulieman Kayad. Goalkeepers—PLD: Nick Clark; R: Jagger Reno. Records—PLD: 1-0; R: 0-1.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.