MEDINA â€” Oh, so close but yet so far.
Highlandâ€™s boys soccer team came within a whisker of beating Bay Village Bay in the Ashland Division II Regional semifinals Tuesday, but ended up a 2-1 loser in a shootout.
The Rockets took the free kick bonanza 6-5 after the teams made their first 10 combined attempts.
â€œShootouts are a rotten way to decide a winner,â€ Bay coach Bobby Dougherty said. â€œYou have skilled players going at it evenly for two hours, and then you have to end it like this.â€
â€œIt is like ending a tie basketball game with free throw shooting, it just isnâ€™t right.â€
The reason Dougherty was so upset is he lost the 2005 state championship game the same way.
This time, however, he came out on the winning side.
It was the sixth shooter for the Rockets (16-3-1), sophomore Shane Williams, who scored the game winner.
â€œI wasnâ€™t nervous, there wasnâ€™t pressure on me because Highland had already missed,â€ Williams said. â€œI just hit the ball well and let it go up the middle Their goalie (Justin Nolan) got a hand on it but I had enough on it to get it home.â€
Both teams went 5-for-5 to start the shootout with Highland (17-3-0) getting goals from Graham Stec, Jacob Naumann, Gabe Mancini, Billy Prebis and Ryan Florian.
Bay countered with markers from Aaron Adkins, Ian Monro, Andrew Wytzka, Jeff Linhart and Tyler Barnett.
Eric Duale of the Hornets, though, missed on try No. 11. Williams then connected on the 12th attempt.
â€œThat was unusual to go six deep.â€ Dougherty said. â€œWe practice with 10 guys on our list, but you seldom go past five.â€
Actually, Hornets coach Billy Zufall didnâ€™t think it should have ever gotten to a shootout.
â€œWe controlled the game for most of regulation and in the second overtime,â€ Zufall said. â€œI knew if they were going to score on us, it would have to be on a set play like a free kick or corner kick.â€
And a corner kick it was.
After Highland had taken a 1-0 lead at 35:58 of the second half on Florianâ€™s header of a Stec corner kick, Bay duplicated the goal.
Bobby Olson banged home a corner kick pass from Adkins to tie it up with 24:14 remaining in regulation.
â€œWe had a breakdown, one of the few weâ€™ve had all year,â€ Zufall said. â€œBut even after that goal, we had plenty of chances to win it in regulation or overtime but just couldnâ€™t finish.â€
Highland outshot Bay 20-16, 5-2 in the final overtime. However, the Rockets held the edge in corner kicks 7-3.
In the final eight minutes, Florian was stopped three times and Mancini once as Rockets goalie Nate McDonald came up big.
â€œThey (Highland) really kept the pressure on us all night,â€ McDonald said. â€œThey are a very good team with a lot of good offensive players.â€
Bay is no slouch either. The Rockets have been state champions four times and runner-up once. They also have won nine regional titles, 17 district crowns and have been sectional champs every year since 1985.
â€œAll those titles didnâ€™t help us at all getting ready for Highland,â€ Dougherty said. â€œI didnâ€™t know anything about them and had to get a scouting report from the St. Francis DeSales coach.â€
â€œHe told me they had a stud goalie, were strong on the back line, played physical and had some quick forwards,â€ Dougherty said. â€œHe was right on all accounts. They are the most physical and best team weâ€™ve faced this year.â€
Nice words from the Bay coach, but the Hornets would rather have the victory.
They do have the consolation of knowing they set the school record for wins, won their first Suburban League title, finished the year ranked ninth in the state, and were oh so close to moving into the regional finals.