For 18 games this season, the Bay Rockets soccer team had been perfect.
The number-one team in the state, the Rockets had an undefeated record that included 10 shutouts and a goal differential of 96-9. On Wednesday at Wooster High School, against a team it had already beaten 8-0 this season, Bay squared off against the Lexington Minutemen in the Division II, Region 6 semifinal.
After a late second-quarter goal by Bay tied the match at one, Lexington got its revenge when Gavin George scored five minutes into overtime and secured a 2-1 victory. The loss was the first time this season the Rockets shutout in the first half and the first time in 35 games that senior Kyle Cusimano did not score.
Lexington coach Peter Them said after losing to Bay in last season’s Regional semifinal as well, Wednesday’s win was even sweeter.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say this was one of the biggest wins in program history,” Them said. “If you want to go to Columbus (for the State championship) you have to go through Bay first. It’s one of those things that you’re excited be here, but then you’re like, ‘Crap,’ because you know you have to go see (Bay coach Bobby) Dougherty and the squad that they’re bringing.”
With both teams battling through cold and wet weather, neither established a consistent offense from the start of the game. Lexington’s defense also held the Rockets at bay, limiting their often potent offense to just two shots (both on goal) in the first half.
The Minutemen broke through in the 28th minute when Trevor Fehr fielded a cross and fired the ball past Nolan Sooy in net for a 1-0 lead. From that point on, the Minutemen were focused on killing clock and playing strong defense to prevent an equalizer. Lexington’s next shot attempt came on George’s game-winner.
In the second half, Dougherty told his team not to panic. That advice paid off as Bay’s intensity picked up to its normal pace and started peppering shots on Lexington’s net. The Rockets added another 14 shots (12 on goal) and six corners in the second half, but Minutemen keeper Kaleb Reinhart (11 saves) sent away numerous near goals.
“In the second half, we settled in, I thought, very well,” Bay coach Bobby Dougherty said. “We just left too much out there. If you get one or two, or that tying goal, earlier, I think that thing would have been put to bed.”
In the 76th minute, junior midfielder Brock Pickett gathered a deflected shot and rolled the ball into the open part of the net, sending the Rockets’ into a frenzy.
Both teams had opportunities to secure the game-winner in overtime, including a Bay corner in the 83rd minute, but ultimately it was a well-positioned George that made a one-on-one run up the right side of the field and beat Sooy to secure the victory. It was George’s second golden-goal in two games.
“I don’t think the boys necessarily were down (after Bay scored), I think they were upset because they weren’t disciplined in getting the ball out of the box,” Them said. “Before overtime started I just told them, we gotta get ours first. That’s all it takes. I questioned Gavin shooting from where he did, but I’m not going to question him any more.”
After the match, Dougherty said there was “a little bit of shock” but didn’t let the loss take away what his team did this season. The coach credited his six-man senior cast for setting the tone and leading the team.
“Everyone expected a beating tonight and I knew damn well it wasn’t going to be a beating,” Dougherty said. “As (Aiden Bozak) steps down, he’s left a hell of a legacy for all the guys. Obviously, with Cujo (Cusimano), he’s set the standard. The question was, ‘Is he good enough?’ and my goodness I think he’s answered that question.”
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