Terre Haute South was probably one goal away from a high school soccer victory Thursday night that could have shocked the Class 2A Washington Regional — and certainly the team the Braves were playing.
Entering regional play with a sub-.500 record, the Braves had the better of a lot of the action from the middle of the first period until early in the second half against a strong Floyd Central team.
It took a penalty kick near the midpoint of the second half to get the Braves off their game and the Highlanders improved their record to 13-3-4 with a 3-1 win.
Floyd Central took a 1-0 lead less than six minutes into the contest when midfielder Henok Jones played a ball through traffic to Logan Howland, who eluded a couple of South defenders and hammered home a shot from about 25 yards out.
That seemed to confirm the Highlanders’ opinion about how the match would go, and they had several threats that were shut down, either by a South defense led by Forrest Pommier or by keeper Keaton Vanwey.
Then the South offense, led by midfielder Rory Sommerville, started to make its presence felt. Sommerville had a pair of free kicks on goal that were saved, the second of them when Floyd Central keeper Travis Foster leaped and tipped the shot over the crossbar. And late in the half, South’s pressure paid off.
Paul Pendergast got all of his foot on a long shot in the 36th minute, Foster leaping to deflect it but unable to control it. The Braves got one other shot that pulled Foster away from the front of the goal, and Matt Green was there for a tap-in.
“Paul Pendergast had a real good shot,” Green described after the match, “and [Floyd Central’s] goalie got a bad touch. Tony Serrato got taken out, but the play was open for me to finish.”
South pressed its advantage early in the second half. Petr Rodway had a shot on goal in the opening minute, and the Braves had two corners in the first five minutes. Floyd Central looked ripe for the taking.
“[The Highlanders] didn’t come out expecting us to fight that hard,” coach Aaron Nicoson of the Braves said after the match.
“I think they underestimated us, especially when they saw our size,” Pommier agreed. “We’re not a big team.”
When the Braves couldn’t get the score to go ahead, however, the Highlanders seemed to regain some confidence. They had a huge advantage in shots the rest of the way — an even bigger edge on corner kicks — and broke through thanks to the speed of little Zach Lewis.
In the 19th minute of the second period, Jones sent a ball ahead to Lewis at full speed. Lewis took the ball toward the goal and was fouled, and Jones buried the penalty kick with 21:44 left. The Highlanders added the clinching goal in the 28th minute of the second period when a crossing pass cleared one attacker trying a bicycle kick and the Floyd Central behind him got a successful shot away.
“We came out really strong,” a disconsolate Sommerville said after the game. “The penalty kick took away from our momentum and we kind of got down on ourselves.
“We had some chances. It was unfortunate we couldn’t put them away.”
“The scores came from miscommunication on our backline,” Pommier said, “and we committed some fouls … that shouldn’t have happened.”
“That was some of the prettiest soccer to watch from us this season,” Nicoson said. “Once [the penalty kick] came, we saw [momentum] shift back … but I’m proud of [the Braves]. I couldn’t be happier making this [regional] for a first-year coach. [The match] could’ve gone both ways.”
Nicoson’s main praise came for his senior captains, Sommerville and Pommier.
“They were the perfect captains — Rory the commanding presence, Forrest the example,” the coach said.
Thursday wasn’t the last time the Braves will play at Washington either, Green — a sophomore who, by the way, is 5-foot-4 1/2 and 128 pounds — predicted.
“I’m looking forward to making this trip the next two years,” he said.
Terre Haute South 1 0 — 1
Floyd Central 1 2 — 3
FC — Logan Howland (Henok Jones), 34:07 1H
THS — Matt Green, 3:17 1H
FC — Jones penalty kick, 21:44 2H
FC — Sean Brown (Jones, Keaton Jacobi), 12:02 2H
Shots (on goal) — THS 16 (11), FC 34 (13)
Corner kicks — THS 3, FC 14.
Next — Floyd Central (13-3-4) plays for the regional championship at 6 p.m. Saturday against either Castle or Evansville Memorial. Terre Haute South finished 6-9-2.