We all know absence makes the heart grow fonder. Terre Haute South’s boys soccer team hasn’t won a regional soccer match since 1997 – before all of South’s current players were born. The hope for the Braves to end their drought came from the notion that they matched up evenly with Class 3A Seymour Regional semifinal foe Columbus East.
That hope was born in reality as the Braves defeated the Olympians 2-1 in the Saturday morning match to advance to the 7 p.m. championship match against Castle. The Knights defeated Center Grove 2-1 in the other Seymour Regional semifinal.
“I’m so excited,” South’s Ashton Hayne said. “It means we have to keep playing. We’ve been doubted, but we showed what we needed to do.”
Hayne would play a part in both of South’s goals. The first one set the tone for the entire match.
Through the first 20 minutes of the first half, Columbus East created almost all of the chances. Dangerous forward Christopher Quisenberry initiated the Olympians’ attack. In the first 20 minutes, Columbus East took three shots and had four corner kicks.
South’s first shot didn’t come until the 21-minute mark, but the Braves probed the Olympians’ defense and also got used to the fast-track turf at Seymour’s excellent soccer stadium.
Finally, a chance came from the right side. A Brock Barger through ball found its way to Hayne, who made an attempt on goal from the right side. Hayne’s shot didn’t have a lot of juice on it, but it did catch the leg of Columbus East defender Cameron Trueblood. The ball deflected goalward and South was on the board with 17:45 left in the first half.
Was it an own goal or a Hayne goal? Most observers saw it as an own goal. South coach John Stephens naturally credited his own player.
“Ashton’s shot was a deflection, but it was a deflection that led to a goal, so I gave that to him,” Stephens explained.
As for Hayne?
“I’d like to thanks to whomever shot that in. I touched it and they kicked it in,” Hayne said. “That goal gave us the confidence to pick up our game.”
No matter who gets credit for the goal, the result was the same. The Braves (12-5-2) had a 1-0 lead and the Olympians’ fate was placed into the tender mercies of South’s excellent defense.
As South did in its sectional championship victory over Bloomington South, its defensive sagged back and defended collectively well. The combination of Will Talens, Scottie Thurston, Landry Kimery Grant Esper, Eli Storey, Isaac Hale, Branton Ward proved to be a difficult defensive wall for Columbus East to break. Add in midfielders Mason Ham and Gavin Henning, who tracked back to help, and finding an equalizer was that much more difficult for the Olympians, who managed just one tepid shot in the first half after the opening goal.
“This was the first game in the postseason where we were able to play our game. We kept it simple and we were able to work the ball around the field more as opposed to 50-50 balls and long kicks. This game started the way we wanted it to,” Stephens said.
Still, Stephens knew Columbus East was dangerous and he wanted a second goal. He didn’t have to wait long into the second half to get it.
This time, there was no doubt who gets the credit for it. Barger attacked from the right side, got within five yards of the byline and sent in a perfect cross into the six-yard box. Hayne was waiting and he didn’t miss. South led 2-0 with 34:40 left and the Braves could relax.
South would only make two more attempts on goal as Columbus East threw players forward to try to wipe out their deficit. Quisenberry was menacing at times attacking off the left wing, he hit the crossbar with a shot at 27:55. South’s Kade Kline made a diving save on a hard-hit Logan Cline shot with 9:10 left – and that proved to be vital.
With 5:48 left, the Olympians finally broke through. Columbus East’s Kevin Galindo Sanchez played a lateral ball across the top of the 18-yard box. Dathan Wolf received it and planted a well-struck shot into the top right corner from about 16 yards out to make it 2-1.
However, Columbus East (9-3-7) never really got another good chance. Quisenberry had one shot easily saved by Kline and South was able to withstand the Olympians’ pressure to preserve their win.
“I didn’t think two goals would be enough. They’re very dangerous, especially in the last quarter of the game. Up until the last five seconds? I wasn’t sure they weren’t going to put another one past us,” Stephens said.
The challenge for the Braves after the win? Finding a place to kill time and rest up for the regional championship. South had already had a full day upon arrival at Seymour as they boarded an early-morning bus to make the 10 a.m. kickoff.
“We’re going to find a quiet place for the boys to relax and talk strategy. We’ll enjoy this win for about 15 minutes before we get ready for the next one,” Stephens said.