In sports, it's not always the better team on the field that comes out on top. That seemed to be the case for the Central Christian College men's soccer team on Tuesday evening.
The Tigers hosted the Oklahoma City University Stars on Senior Day, and after honoring 13 guys donning the Tiger uniform for the final time at home, they took the pitch and put together one of their best performances of the year. The Stars came into the match as the third-best team in the Sooner Athletic Conference, and on paper, should have run away from the Tigers.
The Tigers didn't get the memo, and they played some very inspired soccer. They went toe to toe with the Stars, and for 44 minutes and 58 seconds in the first half, they were dead even. However, with just two seconds on the clock in the first half, the Stars got on the board on a counter attack. OCU's Aboubakr Diallo received a long cross from the right side of the 18-yard box, and in a very athletic move, got his right boot on the ball and poked it over the outstretched hands of Brian Silva, who was in goal for the Tigers.
Despite the late goal by the Stars, the Tigers didn't get discouraged. If anything, it prompted them to play with even more intensity in the second half. A couple of changes at the break, and the Tigers became the aggressors, taking it right at the Stars. In the 73rd minute, Lucas Braga drew a foul on the Stars just outside the 18-yard box. Freshman Matias Nunez took the free kick, and bent a beautiful ball over the right side of the five man wall and into the upper 90 of the goal.
With the game tied at one, the Tigers had several more chances to take the lead. In one sequence, the Star net minder made a spectacular save on a low driving shot by the Tigers and then jumped up and made another save on a point blank shot from the Tigers. It was frustrating, the Tigers were so close, but despite having more shots, and shots on goal, they couldn't put another ball in the back of the net.
With just over two minutes left on the clock, the Stars got an opportunity to counter attack again. Aboubakr, who scored the first goal, dribbled over half the length of the field, and then dropped the ball off to teammate James Beattie, who dribbled to the left side of the six-yard box and then fired a ball under the outstretched arm of Silva.
That goal would turn out to be the nail in the coffin for the Tigers. Trailing 1-2, they made every effort in the final two minutes to put in an equalizer, but unfortunately time ran out, and the Stars escaped with the win.
This was a tough pill to swallow for head coach Aaron Hoxie and the Tigers.
"Man, what a tough result for the guys tonight,” Hoxie said. “Soccer is a cruel game, and we definitely didn't deserve to lose tonight. I thought that the best team lost tonight. At least for one night, we were better. We played great. We did everything right. The players gave all and unfortunately didn't get the favorable result. That being said, their goalkeeper was the difference in the match. His saves kept the game for them and he was unbelievable tonight."
Hoxie continued by adding, "We'll spend the night licking our wounds and we'll get ready for WBU in the SAC quarterfinals on Thursday. It's a quick turnaround, so we've got to man up, and get focused because we are about to go again.”
Hoxie finished by thanking the 13 seniors the team honored before the start of the game saying, "I know it was tough for them to come to grips with the reality that they'll not be coming out of the locker room and head to the field any more. I just want to congratulate them on their achievements and thank them for what they've done for me, the college, and the program."
The Tigers finished the regular season at 10-7-1, and 3-6-1 in the SAC. They finished the conference portion of their schedule in eighth place and earned a spot in the conference tournament. As Hoxie alluded to, the Tigers will travel to Plainview, Texas to take on the No. 1seed Wayland Baptist University Pioneers on Thursday afternoon. A time has yet to be determined.