In a marathon penalty kick shootout after a 1-1 tie in regulation, Tates Creek advanced 10-9 over Lexington Catholic on Tuesday night in the boys’ 43rd District soccer semifinals.
Jona Juarez up for the second time in the shootout after kicks had cycled around back to the No. 1 shooter, struck a clean, smooth roller into the bottom left corner of the goal for the deciding point and got swarmed on the ground by his Commodores teammates who are making the first appearance of their careers in the district finals and with it their first trip to the 11th Region Tournament.
“This means everything to me,” said Tates Creek keeper Josh Harris, who saved one of the kicks in the first five taken and saw LexCath’s 11th kick rise over the crossbar. “We beat Dunbar for the first time in nine years and now we beat Catholic for the first time the entire time I’ve been here on this team, so it’s wonderful to me.”
Scoreless through about 60 minutes, Tates Creek senior Ben Kaindu knifed through the right side of the Knights’ defense in the box and struck a left-footed shot underneath LexCath keeper Ian Rothbauer to put the Commodores up 1-0.
Tates Creek sagged behind the ball in the final minutes trying to prevent an equalizer, but a free kick given up just over midfield set up a deep ball into the box that LexCath forward Victor Montoya got a head to, tying the game 1-1 with under five minutes to play.
“We felt we were still in a pretty good position,” said Tates Creek Coach Albert Gross about how regulation ended. “I know it probably hurt, a little sting there at the end, but they kept their heads right and continued to play.”
Both teams struggled to create chances in the two five-minute overtime periods, sending it to the shootout. For Creek, who suffered a shootout loss to Paul Laurence Dunbar a year ago in these same semifinals, the victory was especially sweet and the kicks, of which they missed only one in 11 tries Tuesday, were that much more determined.
“I think that’s always been our question this year,” Gross said of his team’s will to win. “They probably showed it to themselves that they do want it. I think that’s what we’re most proud of them about, so far, is that they’re starting to gel as a team and have come together and actually started playing for one another.”
Tates Creek advances to play Dunbar in the finals at 7 p.m. Thursday at Lafayette.
Wild finish in 42nd
Frederick Douglass goalie Max Hasler played the leading role in the Broncos’ epic comeback in the late 43rd District semifinal Tuesday.
First, he launched a free kick that deflected into the goal to tie the game with under a minute left in regulation, and then he came up with the final save in a 7-6 penalty shootout win over Bryan Station.
Down 3-1 with under 10 minutes left on their home field, Douglass rallied to within a goal and tied it 3-3 as Hasler came all the way out of his goalie box to about 25 yards out to take a last-gasp free kick with 22 seconds left.
In the emotion of the final moments, Douglass Coach Omar Shalash was shown a red card by the referee, ejecting him from the game. He wasn’t on the sideline for Hasler’s miracle shot, but his team brought home Douglass’ first trip to the 42nd District finals in the program’s three-year history.
“The whole stadium went crazy man,” Shalash said. “They did it for one another. This is probably the best moment of my entire coaching life because I’m so happy for these kids. This was like a movie.”
Penalty shootouts are scheduled for five kicks, but at the end of five, the two teams remained knotted up with two misses each. Finally, Eric Triplett stepped up for Douglass and made their seventh to set up Hasler’s game-winning save on Bryan Station’s attempt to match.
Blue Devils advance: Earlier in the evening, top seed Henry Clay defeated Sayre 10-0 to earn its spot in the finals. The Blue Devils will play Douglass at 8 p.m. Friday. Both teams advance to the 11th Region Tournament next week.
Dunbar keeps streak
Paul Laurence Dunbar, the top seed in the 43rd District Tournament, got an early goal from Issac Cano and held on for a 1-0 win over host Lafayette.
The win secures Dunbar’s ninth consecutive trip to a regional.
“Fighting adversity, you know, it was really tough on us at the beginning of the season,” said senior Pablo Ortiz. “But we came together, became one team, and now we’re catching fire.”
Former head coach Todd Bretz was removed from the team by the school district in a personnel action near the beginning of the season and was told he could no longer coach in Fayette County last week. Regardless, the team has pressed on.
“He’s always in our hearts and in our minds,” Ortiz said of Bretz the only boys’ soccer coach in program history. “He told us ‘stay together. Keep the team together, and who knows what will happen.’”
LexCath girls have chance to defend
Lexington Catholic’s girls’ team ousted defending 11th Region champion Paul Laurence Dunbar 3-0 in the 43rd District Tournament on their home field Tuesday.
Freshman Kylie Stephenson kneed in a ball caromed in off a corner kick to give the Knights a 1-0 lead early in the first half. Sister Bailey Stephenson, a junior, got loose at the top of the 18-yard box late in the second half and put home a left-footed shot that made it 2-0 with under 15 minutes left.
“EJ (Bryant) threw it in. It was really nice, I just got open,” Bailey Stephenson said. “It means a lot for us to keep going, we want to do good for our seniors”
Emily Scanlon added a third goal with under five minutes to play. The win gives the Knights a chance to defend their 43rd District title Thursday night when they play Tates Creek at 6 p.m.
LexCath has been plagued by injuries, losing four players over the course of the year, the latest coming to starter and key playmaker Maggie Corbett to a broken bone in her lower leg a month ago. But the rest of the team has stepped up.
“The kids that got hurt are a part of this victory,” Coach Terry Quigley said. “Those girls showed up for all the practices and it’s those girls who kept us together … they (Corbett, Addie Fresca, Grace Nikirk and Sidney Schoff) taught the other kids how important this was.”
Creek rolls: In the other 43rd girls’ semifinal, top-seeded Tates Creek defeated Lexington Christian 7-1. Five different Commodores scored led by senior Shae Robertson’s hat trick. Robertson is an Eastern Kentucky commit.