MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Baylor came into Wednesday night’s Division II Class AA soccer semifinal as the defending state champion – but also as the underdog.
Competing against undefeated and top-ranked Montgomery Bell Academy, the Red Raiders proved early that they weren’t going to relinquish their title without a fight. Baylor led MBA for 41 minutes and played with the score tied for 43 before finally ending its season with a 2-1 overtime loss at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
“All week we talked about how this game was going to come down to set pieces, and all three goals were off set pieces,” Red Raiders coach Curtis Blair said. “I think for the most part we did a great job defending them. I thought our guys stuck to the game plan. We came out, scored the early goal, and did a great job defending and creating even more chances after we scored the first one.”
Baylor got on the board in the eighth minute when senior forward Ramsey Seagle struck a ball into the near corner, and the Red Raiders created several more extremely dangerous opportunities before the end of the first period. Taking a lead into the half was one of Baylor’s goals against MBA (14-0-1), a team it had lost to 1-0 during the regular season.
“We didn’t think that we played very well the first game,” Blair said. “We thought we played extremely flat. One thing we talked about going into halftime today was either being up, or at least keeping it 0-0. For most of their season, they’ve scored first on everybody, so that was important for us.”
The momentum swung back in favor of the Big Red when they equalized on a Jonah Rappuhn goal nine minutes into the second period. Baylor regained its footing, though, and by the midway point of the half the Red Raiders were once again creating a number of scoring chances.
They just missed on a header that went inches wide of the goal with 7:48 remaining, and the match advanced to two 10-minute overtimes. Baylor created several good combinations during the first extra period, but couldn’t manage to put any of them in the net.
“It’s a game of inches,” Blair said. “We definitely had our chances; we just couldn’t finish another one.”
With 7:28 remaining in the second overtime period, MBA did. Andrew Conwell headed in a corner kick, and although Baylor continued creating chances until the final seconds, its season ended with a 2-1 loss. Although the Red Raiders (15-4-3) came up one win short of a return trip to the state final, Blair praised his senior class for its run of three consecutive state final fours.
“I’m so proud of our seniors,” he said. “I don’t think people understand how hard it is just to get here. To be here in the state final four for three straight years, I attribute all that to these seniors and all the dedication they put into it. Their freshman year, we were struggling, but the energy, effort, intensity and leadership they brought in has been incredible. What a great career, to come here three times in a row and win a state title one of those times, and then to be inches away from going back to the state final tonight.”
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at email@example.com)