November 3rd, 2018

REPEAT! Tigers beat Highlands to win second straight state title

Block_screenshot 2018-10-06 at 2

Conor Revell

Managing Editor


REPEAT! Tigers beat Highlands to win second straight state title
The Tigers pose with the state championship trophy / photo by Conor Revell

LEXINGTON, Ky. - St. Xavier’s soccer team is back on top…..winning in dramatic fashion, and perhaps the most emotional one for the head guy.

The Tigers won their second consecutive KHSAA soccer state title Saturday night with a 1-0 win over Highlands at Frederick Douglass High.

“I don’t know if I can sum up this team,” St. X head coach Andy Schulten said. “I grew up coaching with this team. My son Jacob (Schulten) is on this team, my nephew Chase (Schulten) is on this team. All of them are best friends. When I came into St. X I was a young guy and I could get out there and play with them.

“Now, if I go out there, my back would go out, and you’d have to wheel me off. I’ve known most of these kids since they were seven, eight years old. I think the emotions are starting to get to me. When you’re a father and your son is growing up - you hope they have a chance to win one. To pull it off, it’s very emotional.”

Conner George put the Bluebirds in a world of hurt on a breakaway when Case Cox sent him a cross inside the box and he blasted it into the left side of the net 29 seconds into the game.

“Max Gordinier played an amazing ball to Case,” George said. “Case played it beautifully right to my foot. I simply tapped it in. It was amazing.”

Cox uttered similar words.

“Max played me a great ball,” Cox said. “I was out in the midfield and the ball practically landed right at my foot. All I had to do was take a touch, I got my head up and I knew Conner was going to be on the back-post. I squandered right past the defenders and Conner was right there.”

Nothing else was needed.

“It’s unbelievable,” Schulten said. “It was our three big guns. It was Max Gordinier, he kicked a pass right over to Case, he took a couple of touches, and then passed it to Conner who buried it. For as high powered as our offense has been all-year long, I can’t tell you how proud of our defense I am in the Final Four. We pitched a shutout in the Final Four. That’s impressive. Wyatt Goodin, Spencer Allen, Preston Davis, John Spinetto, and John Frisbie were unreal. Our back six were outstanding.”

Highlands (23-2-3) best chance at getting a goal came with three seconds left when a Tiger foul gave them one last chance to score.

Stevie Caymond took the shot from about 50 yards out, but St. X goalkeeper Dugan Dolan fought off 10 Highlands player and caught the ball out of the air as the horn sounded.

“It was a perfect example of what our coach has been talking about all-year,” Dolan said. “He had told us to keep our heads up the whole game. In the dying seconds of the game they got those three seconds back. They get 10 players in the box and it was down to who could get the ball first. He kicked it perfectly to where I could time my run and grab it out of the air.”

And, the St. X (26-2-1) celebration began.

“We had to gather ourselves,” Schulten said. “They brought their goalie up so they had a man advantage in there. I thought that ball when they had three seconds left on the clock - stayed in the air for 25 minutes. Our goalie came up and got a good punch on it. This was a classic championship game. It went down to the final second and was a war.”

It’s St. X’s 14th state title in school history, the most any program has in the state, five more than Ballard who is second on the list.

Schulten has won 10 of those as the head-man, the most of any coach in KHSAA history.

The Tigers blasted 12 shots at Highland goalkeeper Will Burnham (five saves) and earned four corner kicks.

Highlands took 10 shots at St. X goalkeeper Dolan Dugan (six saves) and had one corner kick.

“We had to lock it in,” Dugan said. “We knew that they had a height advantage and were going to be physical with us. We don’t have that height, but we do have that heart. I knew that our defense was going to have no problem and was going to stay tight in there and don’t let them turn. We had been working all-week on winning balls out of the box and we didn’t let them have a chance because we worked on that so much.”

It caps off a spectacular season for the Tigers - losing two games - one to Collegiate in the district finals - and the other to Trinity.

Cox and George are perhaps the best duo in the state of Kentucky finishing with a combined 50 goals and 19 assists.

“I don’t know,” George said. “We always like to play our best. We are best buds on and off the field. We spend a lot of time together. It’s sad to think that this was our last game together.”

George finished the season with 26 goals and nine assists while Cox had 24 goals and 10 assists.

“We have been playing together since we were young,” Cox said. “We know each other so well. I know he likes that left foot so I try and find him on that left foot. He knows I like to run. He holds his runs for me. It has worked out well this season. He has gotten a bunch of goals this season, I have gotten a bunch of goals. All around it has been fun having him by my side.”

It has been a great run - the Tigers are 49-5-3 in the last two seasons - this after a four-year hiatus of failing to win a title in the powerful Seventh Region.

But, it didn’t come without hiccups, St. X blew a three goal lead against Collegiate in the district final and ultimately lost in PKs.

The Tigers blew a lead again in the regional final against the same team before George saved the day with a golden goal.

“It’s a season building process,” Schulten said. “Some teams come together a bit faster. We had a great season, we faced a little bit of adversity there, we could have caved, and we didn’t. They picked each other up and stepped up when we needed too. A lot of our battles were self imposed. We really grew up the last three weeks of the season.”

Sure, St. X had hiccups, but at the end of the day, this team will finish the year nationally ranked, and most importantly, state champions.

“The brothership is what makes us special,” George said. “From freshman year to JV to varsity. Our bond is so strong. Our chemistry is 100 percent.”

 

Recent Articles