Baylor Beats Father Ryan In State Semifinal Soccer

With 2-0 Victory, Red Raiders Will Play For Title On Thursday

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - by Jaime Barrett
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Baylor boys' soccer coach Curtis Blair already believed his team was recieving extra help from above in Wednesday evening's Division II Class AA state semifinal. 

When Austin Rehm's bicycle kick gave the Red Raiders a lead over Father Ryan in the second half, it must have felt like confirmation.

Blair, whose father Curt passed away on Tuesday after a lengthy battle with cancer, made it to the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex to coach his team in the state semifinals.
He and the Red Raiders will return there Thursday after Rehm's incredible goal sparked a 2-0 victory that puts them in the championship match.

"God is good," Blair said. "I think it was 12 versus 11 out there today. I feel like my father was looking down on us."

Blair credited assistant coach Scott Bosgraff for filling in during his absence the past two days to help the team get ready for a rematch of one of the low points in its season. During a regular-season meeting with Father Ryan, the Red Raiders gave up three goals in the first 10 minutes, and lost 4-1. The Irish went on to win the East/Middle Region championship, while Baylor finished third in the region.

"We've talked about adversity all year," Blair said. "For them to come out and compete the way they did today is incredible. Four weeks ago, we got shelled and lost our composure. Today, we kept our composure, we kept our defensive shape, we limited their chances, and I thought we did a great job. The guys came out and played with a lot of heart and soul, and that's a tribute to them."

Father Ryan did have several dangerous scoring chances in the first period, but Red Raiders keeper Colin Brewer helped keep the match scoreless at the half. During the break, Baylor decided that merely performing better than the last time wouldn't be enough.

"When we went in 0-0 at the half, we had the belief that we could win this," Blair said. "Our mentality was, let's go out there and win it. We didn't want to be satisfied with one good half."

Baylor backed up that belief six minutes into the second period. With the Red Raiders pressuring the goal, Rehm was in the box to follow a shot from Robert Stagmaier. Father Ryan keeper Jake Wilson came out to handle the shot, but Rehm collected the rebound, took a touch, and sent a perfect bicycle kick over the head of the defender who was guarding the line.

"Austin did a great job," Blair said. "He took it off his chest and then he bicycled it in. Just for him to have that composure with the good first touch was big, and then to have the courage and the creativity to go ahead and try it. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't, but this time it worked out."

About five minutes after Baylor took the 1-0 lead, Father Ryan lost a man to a red card, and the Red Raiders then turned their attention to defense. The Irish nearly still managed an equalizer with 9:27 remaining, but a Baylor defender cleared a ball from the net with Brewer out.

Then, with 6:23 left to play, a shot from the Red Raiders' Alex Tyler appeared to cross the line, but initially no goal was signaled. After a discussion by the officials, Baylor was awarded the second goal, and finished out the 2-0 victory.

"We sort of bunkered in, and I think we may have bunkered in too early," Blair said. "When we got that second goal, it made it a huge relief. We could at least catch our breath and try to rest some guys. We had been limiting their chances, so getting that second goal made us even more confident going into the last couple minutes."

The upset over the state's top-ranked team puts Baylor, now 14-4-1, in Thursday's state championship match. The Red Raiders will face the winner of the Montgomery Bell Academy-Christian Brothers semifinal for the title at 8 p.m. Eastern.

"We've got one more chance," Blair said. "Once you get here, that's all that matters. At the beginning of the season, what everyone always talks about is getting to the final, and now we're here."

(E-mail Jaime Barrett at jaimenbarrett@gmail.com)

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