MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- When Baylor scored less than three minutes into Thursday night's Division II Class AA soccer state championship match, no one expected sophomore Rafael Gaglianone's goal to ultimately be the game-winner.
But if there's anything to be learned from Baylor's surprising run to the 2012 state title, it's to expect the unexpected.
For the next 77 minutes, the Red Raiders' defense battled to keep Father Ryan out of the goal at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex, and their hard work paid off with a 1-0 victory and a fourth boys' state soccer title for Baylor.
"We worked so hard," sophomore defender Rodrigo Alonso said. "We needed a lot of organization so we could put everything away. The clock can be your best friend or your worst enemy, and tonight it was our worst enemy, but we were able to handle it."
Much like they did in Wednesday's semifinal victory over Christian Brothers, the Red Raiders struck early against Father Ryan, but this time they were never able to experience the comfort of an insurance goal. Baylor's lone score came with 37:10 left to play in the opening period when the remnant of Ramsey Seagle's corner kick was left bouncing around in the box, and Gaglianone stepped in to fire it inside the net.
The Red Raiders had their share of dangerous scoring opportunities the rest of the way, twice hitting the frame and sending shots inches wide on several occasions, but were never able to connect. Instead, Baylor relied on its back four of Alonso, Jeffrey Shibata, Gaglianone and Will Hitchock to help shut down much of the Father Ryan attack, and keeper Henrique Ribeiro to come through with the saves on the shots that got through.
"Henrique and our back four were amazing," coach Curtis Blair said. "Especially Rodrigo. I feel like he was our MVP of this game. When things broke down, he would get a toe on it, or a head on it, or whatever it took.To come to state and have two shutouts is incredible."
As time finally wound down in the second half with the 1-0 advantage still intact, the Red Raiders rushed onto the field to celebrate a state title that few would have predicted coming into the season, and the first for Baylor under the leadership of head coach Curtis Blair.
"All the glory goes to God," Blair said. "For him to have given me the opportunity to work with these young men is just unbelievable. Every year I've been here we've taken steps forward, and it doesn't get any better than this. This is what you coach for."
Thursday night's jubilant celebration was also a reminder to Alonso and his teammates of what the Red Raiders have been playing for all season.
"There are no words," Alonso said. "You think back to our first day of practice and realize this is the moment we've been working for all year long."
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org