Eleven felt like heaven for St. Xavier.
Led by tournament MVP Nathan James, the Tigers claimed a record 11th boys' KHSAA state soccer title by shutting out Ryle 3-0 Saturday at Paul Dunbar High School.
"It's not about this award," the senior goaltender said of his individual honor. "It's about the team. It feels great to win state. ... These guys are great, and I love every one of them."
The top-ranked Tigers, winning their 26th consecutive match, topped off a 27-1-1 season. Overall, they outscored opponents 124-15.
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The title is their fourth in five years and seventh since 2000.
Mitchell Metzger, Neil Henley and Danny Belza scored, while James came up with several spectacular saves to keep the ninth-ranked Raiders at bay. In the first half, James got a hand up to tip Connor Jordan's bullet of a shot off and over the crossbar.
"A little bit in the sun," James said. "I was off-balance and just got as much as I could on it; just keep it out of the net."
Metzger had the only goal of the half, 4:47 in, assisted by Henley,
Ryle (23-3-3) continued to press in the second half. Cole Willoughby worked his way into the penalty box on the right wing. James came out to make the stop but couldn't control the rebound. St. Xavier's Drew Hillebrand made a sliding kick save just as Willoughby was about to refire.
"The keeper had one — I can't say the word — but one heck of a game," Willoughby said. "He made outstanding saves."
A few minutes after Willoughby's near-goal, Ryle's Tyrus Sciarra put a shot just wide of the net. Then Henley made it 2-0 at the 50:15 mark.
Ryle keeper Chris Froschauer, an All-Tournament pick, came out to stop Henley's initial attempt. The goal came on a sharp-angle rebound, from a yard or so off the end line. Belza headed in the clinching goal with 9:49 left.
"My kids worked hard," Ryle Coach Stephen Collins said. "We went out and gave it all we've got and just met a buzzsaw of a team today."
Ryle made it to the title match for the second time in school history. The Raiders fell to Bowling Green in the 2006 finals.
St. Xavier 3, Ryle 0
Goals (assists) — SX: Mitchell Metzger (Neil Henley); Henley; Danny Belza (Gabe Stewart). Goalkeepers — SX: Nathan James; R: Chris Froschauer
Records — St. Xavier 27-1-1; Ryle 23-3-3.