JOHNSON CITY – The West Greene soccer team gave it everything that it had on Tuesday night, but the Buffaloes came up short in a 1-0 loss to University High in the District 1-A semifinals.
The loss brings an end to the Buffaloes’ season while University High moves on to play Chuckey-Doak on Thursday in the district title game.
“Ultimately I felt like we competed in the first half, but in the second half things waned and that’s where they got us,” West Greene coach Logan Minnick said. “I liked the fight we showed until the end. I can’t say enough about this team, 9-5 is our best record in several years. We have a lot to build on for the future.”
West Greene had a few chances to strike first in the first half, but getting numbers into the attack was a challenge and University High keeper Samuel McGeee was tough to beat.
The Buffs’ first opportunity came in the 11th minute when Ben Johnson sent a lead pass ahead to Nic Horner for a breakaway opportunity. The shot was good, but McGee was able to send it away. Two corner kicks followed but the Bucs’ defense held strong.
In the 23rd minute Horner stole possession and worked through the defense four-on-one before slipping a pass to Jacob Dean who had a chance in the box to beat McGee one on one, but the again the keeper made a diving stop.
“Getting numbers forward and being aware of those situations was a problem today,” Minnick said. “We need these guys to learn from that and get better from down the road.”
In the other goal West Greene’s Hunter Gregg gave his team a chance by turning away everything the Bucs sent at him through the first 40 minutes. His stops started in the fifth minute when he stepped in front of two shots from inside 10 yards.
In the 16th minutes Gregg won a one-on-one matchup against Daniel Rojas and then turned away a pair of corner kicks.
“Hunter Gregg is the most valuable player I’ve had since I’ve been the coach at West Greene,” Minnick said. “It’s not even close. He keeps us in games we shouldn’t be in, and we’ve won games we shouldn’t have won because of him. He inspires confidence in our defense, and we are certainly going to miss him.”
The breakthrough goal came in the 46th minute. Matt Roberts played a ball off a Buff defender and recovered the ball in the left side of the box. He took one more touch and fired a shot into the back of the net for what proved to be the game winner.
The goal took the pressure off University High and allowed them to focus on defense which made catching up even more difficult for West Greene.
The Buffs never quit and fought to the final second. In the 76th minutes Christian Fuentes looked like he might have found the equalizer when he took in free kick from Duban Torres and launched a shot from the top of the box through traffic, but once again McGee got his hands on the ball.
With 38 seconds left Fernando Mejia was tripped up 20 yards from the frame and a yellow card was handed out to the Bucs. Nic Horner took a free kick and Mejia got another foot on the ball, but the final shot sailed wide.
“Early in the season I was preaching grit to these guys, and I think we saw that at the end,” Minnick said. “We got in the box and we gave ourselves a chance, we just couldn’t score. But the fact that they were competing to the final second I think says a lot about this team’s character.”