October 24th, 2011
Tigers Advance To State Sub-Sectional
St. X defeats Oldham County 2-0 in state tournament
St. Xavier High School and Oldham County High School were deadlocked in the middle of a scoreless tie on Monday night during the KHSAA state tournament first round, when St. X Head Coach Andy Schulten witnessed a play he's "maybe seen five times" in 40 years of soccer.
After Tigers senior Neil Henley used his head to settle the ball near the Colonels' goal with 15:45 to go in the game, he fired a shot in the direction of Oldham County goalkeeper Evan Gallagher. The attempt got by the goalie but was kicked away by a Colonel defender who had taken position just beneath the top post of the goal and in front of the net.
The defender's deflection proceeded to bounce back and land directly in the hands of Gallagher who was only permitted to use his feet to play the ball at that moment. As a result, an intentional kickback to the keeper was called, the ball was placed mere feet away from the goal and St. X was awarded an indirect kick upon restart.
Henley would take advantage, finish what he started by blasting the point-blank kick over the head of an eight-man wall, and gave St. Xavier what eventually held up as the game-winning goal, as the Tigers defeated the Colonels 2-0 at Oldham County to advance to Wednesday's sub-sectional game against Louisville Collegiate.
"That's one of those tough calls," said Schulten of the kickback ruling. "When (the defender) sent it back toward the middle we had a couple guys standing there that actually had a decent play on the ball. Because they were in the area, the referee's interpretation was that the goalie picked it up with his hands. It may have saved them a goal that (Gallagher) did that, but fortunately we were lucky enough to have Neil in there to put it in off the restart."
"The best thing it did for us was it opened it up a little bit and we started getting some runs," said Schulten. "(Oldham County) was surrounding Neil all night long and they had an excellent gameplan. It was just one of those unlucky bounces that went against them tonight and in our favor, so we're pretty fortunate."
The state's No. 1 ranked Tigers and the No. 13 ranked Colonels played a scoreless first half and had nearly 25 minutes of back and forth action before the Henley goal at the 15:43 mark. St. X defeated Oldham County 2-1 during regular season play when these two teams met at the Land Rover Louisville, Kentucky Cup at Ballard High School back in August.
"They gave us a really good match earlier in the season and I didn't expect anything less (tonight)," said Schulten. "Coach (Brian) Durbin's an excellent coach....he's outstanding. He's real good for the game. He's real good for (Oldham County). We weren't taking this game lightly by any stretch."
Henley, who just missed a goal with 23:34 to go in the game when his rocket shot slammed off the top right corner post and back onto the field of play, also assisted a goal by fellow senior Logan Riely and was called by name on several occasions by the Oldham County student section.
But Schulten said he prepared his team for OCHS' home-field advantage and was pleased with how his team responded to the environment.
"We talked all night and all week long about adversity and facing the tough conditions and controlling what you can control," said Schulten. "It sounds very cliche, but we feel like we're our biggest enemy and if we can control ourselves and play the game we're capable of playing, and not let outside distractions get to us, we can be successful."
Anchoring the St. Xavier defense on Monday was senior goalkeeper Nathan James, who racked up 12 saves during the shutout victory and served as both a vocal and physical presence in the net for the Tigers.
"I really feel like Nathan is the most underrated goalie in the state," said Schulten. "He's extremely athletic. He communicates very well back there and in the last year he's turned from just a shot blocker into a goalkeeper, and I'm real proud of his effort back there. He kept everyone calm (tonight)."
James' counterpart - Gallagher - finished with a respectable 19 saves and kept the score close with several dramatic diving stops during the course of the second half. Oldham County ends its season with a 15-7-4 record.
With the victory, St. X (24-1-1) advances to the sub-sectional portion of the state tournament on Wednesday and finds itself three wins away from its first state soccer championship since 2009. Standing in the way of the Tigers is Louisville Collegiate - the team that represents St. Xavier's lone loss in 26 games this season and the school that eliminated Schulten's squad during state tournament play in 2010.
The two teams will meet once again in two nights with a spot in the state tournament final four on the line.
"We know in the back of our minds it's not going to be just another game," said Schulten. "It's not often you get a chance at redemption and Collegiate's a very talented team and I think (Collegiate) Coach (Brad) Davies is probably the best coach in the state, and he'll have his boys ready to go. We're developing quite a rivalry (with Collegiate) and Wednesday should be a good match."
St. Xavier, which has now won 23 straight games after starting the year with a 1-1-1 record, hasn't lost a game since a 2-1 loss to Louisville Collegiate on Aug. 24. That game was played on a neutral field.
Wednesday's game, which is scheduled for a 7pm start, will be played at Champions Trace - Collegiate's home field.