October 26th, 2010

Collegiate Ends St. X Season With 2-1 Win

Michael Shaw Mahoney

CSN Staff Writer

Collegiate Ends St. X Season With 2-1 Win
photo by Michael Mahoney

Tigers fall after Titans goal in 58th minute

Halloween and a St. Xavier state title in soccer are regular features of late October. But not this year. On their home turf, the two-time defending state champion Tigers, clad in black, fell to Louisville Collegiate Tuesday night 2-1.

The opening half was a forgettable affair. The chill and palpable nerves contributed to play that was far from an advertisement for the "beautiful game." Passes went astray while too many players tried to emulate Lionel Messi.

In the 20th minute, St. Xavier took a direct kick from just beyond the penalty box that flew in low and hard. Peter Schubert, Collegiate's fine goalkeeper, smothered the shot with aplomb. The Tigers would have to produce something much more creative to beat him.

Near the end of the half, St. Xavier finally put together a series of quick, useful diagonal passes that opened space on the wing. The ensuing shot, however, was a damp squib that went wide of the post. They were fortunate with time running out to get a friendly flag from the linesman who signaled offsides when a perfect long ball landed temptingly for Jack Lindner, Collegiate's scrappy striker, as he outraced two defenders for the goal.

Halftime came as a welcome break for two sides in great need of regrouping. St. Xavier broke from their huddle to the all too familiar thump of their theme song, "Eye of the Tiger." It proved inspirational. In the very first minute of the second half, they pressed forward, forcing Peter Schubert to fist the ball away from his goal mouth. The ball fell to St. Xavier's opportunistic Stepen Hubert who slammed the ball home, putting the Tigers ahead 1-0.

The fans of the state champions drew a sigh of relief. But only momentarily.

Collegiate's Eric Nieto continued to play defense, where he started the match, but he looked more and more dangerous. The contest for the midfield became heated with flying elbows and the occasional shirt tug. Collegiate's Will Bryant niggled St. Xavier's Adam Kirsch just enough to provoke some retaliation. The referee acted quickly, handing out a yellow card to Bryant but ejecting Kirsch. St. Xavier would be forced to play a third of the match with only ten men.

The St. Xavier fans were fairly magnanimous in their response to the red card, confident no doubt that their boys could defend the slim lead. That would change in the 53rd minute when Collegiate broke with pace from the center circle. Jack Lindner received a pass, took on two defenders, beat them both, and then somehow slid a shot beneath St. Xavier's goalkeeper, the talented Oliver Brown. It was a beautiful piece of individual play, and one that forced the Tiger faithful to inhale deeply. The defense of the state championship was well and truly on the line.

St. Xavier found it increasingly difficult to establish possession while Collegiate probed the wings for an opening. Tiger defenders Sebastian Jenkins-Neary and Alex Seither held firm, repeatedly stopping the runs of Fabrice Shema, Collegiate's pacey winger. They could only do so much though, and in the 58th minute, a diagonal ball came sailing through their box. Oliver Brown went to catch it and completely missed. A rather stunned Hank Slucher, a Titan defender, found the ball at his feet at the far post. He did not spurn the gift, banging it home to make the score 2-1 to Collegiate.

Surprisingly, St. Xavier lacked a sense of urgency. In the 73rd minute Alex Seither did pound forward to unleash a powerful strike that went just wide, but otherwise the Tiger response lacked bite. Peter Schubert intercepted a few long balls into his box, and Eric Nieto made a clutch slide tackle that denied St. Xavier free passage to the goal. The minutes ticked away. The Tigers looked more and more resigned to their fate. The final whistle blew.

If the St. Xavier supporters seemed shocked, the Collegiate players and their giddy fans were anything but. Their self-belief continues to grow. After the match, their stalwart senior Max Burge said of Head Coach Brad Davies, "He's just brought enthusiasm, and we try to outwork every team. We have the skill now, and Coach Davies has instilled confidence and he's just made us a machine, everyone knows what he's doing. He's the best coach I've ever had."

The Titans have more tricks and treats to share. St. Xavier, on the other hand, must be ruing the decision to wear black jerseys.

Their season is over.         


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