MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Prior to Tuesday’s Class A/AA state soccer quarterfinal, East Hamilton had not allowed a goal in its last 12 matches.
When the Hurricanes gave up two to Christ Presbyterian Academy in a span of 15 minutes, it proved to be too much for them to overcome.
East Hamilton fought back with a strong second-half performance and narrowly missed several opportunities to equalize, but its season ended with a 3-1 loss to CPA at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
“I thought (CPA) had an outstanding first half, and that was the difference in the game,” Hurricanes coach John Millard said. “They came out very aggressive and very fast. We came out a little flat. We weren’t moving off the ball very well, and they were flying off the ball. They were giving us zero time on the ball, and we didn’t have the best response to that. That was the difference in the game.”
While the Hurricanes struggled to maintain possession in the opening period, the Lions were creating a number of dangerous scoring opportunities. Harrison Myers finished one off a restart with 19:12 remaining in the first half, and in the 36th minute, JR Osborn fired off a ball that went through the hands of keeper Fielder Dennis. Osborn’s shot gave East Hamilton a 2-0 halftime deficit against a team it had beaten 3-1 during the regular season.
“We knew the first time we played them wasn’t a really good barometer,” Millard said. “It was early in the season, and it was the third game of a tournament. We knew that it would be a different CPA team. All the credit goes to them. They completely outplayed us in the first half. After that second goal late in the first half, it becomes very difficult to get yourself back in the game.”
The Hurricanes managed to do just that, however, as they began pressuring the Lions’ goal more frequently in the second period. Their efforts paid off when Jose Orellana followed a ball into the net to get East Hamilton within a goal. He and his teammates battled for an equalizer until the final minutes, but when Osborn won a one-on-one battle with 2:28 left on the clock, it sealed the 3-1 loss for the Hurricanes.
“I think we started being more physical,” Millard said of his team’s second-half performance. “Our movement off the ball improved. We really had no choice. We were down two goals, and we had to play a little more direct, which put a little more pressure on their backs. We were inches away on a couple of opportunities that could’ve tied the game. We came up a little short, but our second half was much, much better. I was very pleased with the last 40 minutes.”
The defeat was a heartbreaking one for East Hamilton, whose impressive season included district and region championships, and a run of 14 consecutive victories. The Hurricanes finished with a 19-2-2 record, and left the soccer complex wondering what might have been if the tournament draw had pitted them against a different opening opponent.
“We obviously came into the season with very high expectations,” Millard said. “We wanted to win state, and we felt like we had a team that could do that. I feel like we played a team tonight that could win state. It’s just the luck of the draw. CPA has a very strong team. They’re fast and physical, and they were better in the first 40 minutes.”
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org)