Once again, the Central Christian College men's soccer team played tough against one of the conference’s top tier teams, and once again they came up just a little bit shy.
Tuesday evening's opponent were the Drove of University of Science and Art Oklahoma out of Chickasha, Oklahoma. The Drovers defeated the Tigers by a single goal, 3-2, but if not for some lax play on two set pieces, the Tigers could have easily been on the other side with a 2-1 victory.
The Tigers spotted the Drovers a three-goal cushion in the opening half, and then shut them out in the final 45 minutes. USAO scored just 11 minutes in on a free kick that was played into the 6-yard box. The Tiger defense was unable to clear the ball, and it rolled untouched into the side netting.
Twelve minutes later, the Drovers connected again, this time on a header off a corner kick. Seny Gueye, a 6-foot-4 defender went up uncontested and headed the service straight down and into the lower corner of the goal to put his team up 2-0.
The third and final goal of the half came in the 29th minute, when the Drovers' Hampton Dax played a left-footed cross into the penalty spot where teammate Conor Fay was waiting to head it in.
After a spirited pleading from head coach Aaron Hoxie during the halftime intermission, the Tigers responded with much more inspired play on both ends of the field. They began to chip away at the Drover lead, getting their first goal of the game six minutes into the half. Jayke Maples, who coming into the game led the Tigers in assists with nine, beat his man down the right side line then played a beautiful cross into the 6-yard box on to the waiting head of Gabriel Flores, who slid it into the left side netting.
In the 73rd minute, the roles were reversed. This time it was Flores who played a slow roller through the box and Maples was there to tap it into the back of the net.
Late in the game, the Tigers had one more shot to tie the game and send it to overtime. With 43 ticks on the clock the Drovers were called for a foul from behind about 30 yards from goal. Maples lined up the direct free kick, and drove a ball around the USAO wall. Unfortunately, the ball sailed a little high and just to the right of the upper corner and the game ended with the Drovers up 3-2.
"Another silly first 20 minutes and another great second half, lamented Coach Hoxie. "I'll take the blame for the first half. I did not put the guys in situations where we could take advantage of their natural abilities. I need to get better with my pregame decisions. The second half response was exactly what we needed. We finally got the players in the right places, and we started flowing. We had several opportunities that were clear chances, and we got two goals out of the game. I thought maybe a penalty shot should have been awarded at one point and we had several shots at the goalkeeper, but it wasn't meant to be. I think the players deserve all the credit for getting themselves into this match.”
The loss drops the Tigers to 9-6-1 on the season and 2-5-1 in conference play. Next up is a trip down to Shawnee, Oklahoma for a Saturday matchup with the St. Gregory's University Cavaliers. The men will kick off at 3 p.m. following the women's game.