St. Louis shot down in semifinals

By By Rhett Manuel / American Press

After 110 minutes and spells of dominance against Lusher Charter, perhaps coming down to a penalty shootout was unfortunate

for St. Louis.

Sometimes soccer can be cruel that way. It was to the Saints on Saturday, as Lusher goalkeeper Jared Need pushed three of

four shots in the shootout wide to lift the Lions to a 3-2 win (3-1 penalties) and prevent St. Louis from winning a fifth

consecutive state championship.

“The penalty shootout … the sad thing

is that’s how our girls lost and that’s how our boys lost,” St. Louis

head coach Jason

Oertling said. “It’s a bad way to win and it’s a bad way to lose.

It’s the luck of the draw. Our kids were prepared; we practice

them every day. Their keeper made some good saves. We had our

chances before it came down to PKs and they just didn’t fall

for us today.”

Much of the game was spent with both sides attacking, but St. Louis hit Lusher in waves throughout most of the game. The Saints

had 12 corner kicks, but had several shots hit wide or blocked.

The Saints dictated the game’s first 20 minutes but were caught off guard in the 21st minute when Lusher’s Andrew Malinich,

a North Carolina State signee, headed home a Joe Roberts cross to put the Lions up 1-0.

St. Louis’ Nick Cironi evened the score in the 28th minute as his teammates kept things organized behind him through the rest

of the half.

But the complexion of the game turned on what was called a St. Louis handball in the box late in the first half. Malinich

tucked away the penalty to give Lusher the lead 2-1 at halftime.

After St. Louis’ Michael Mack scored a screaming goal off a corner kick in the 47th minute, the remainder of regulation and

overtime were spent with several close calls for both sides.

“I thought we did have the better chances,” Oertling said. “They had a lot of chances as well. The kids just kept on going.

It’s hard when you go out there for 80 minutes full speed and you add another 30 to that.”

When Need stopped Jon Lorio’s kick in the second round, the Saints responded with a stop of their own to spring hope into

St. Louis.

But, after Malinich tucked away Lusher’s third PK of the shootout, Need stopped a final penalty to push the Lions into the

finals.

“They gave me everything I asked,” Oertling said. “I’m sad because of the result but I can’t be any happier that I had the

opportunity to work with these kids.

“It’s been incredible,” he added “It’s

been such a special group. After coaching 21 years, we’ve had some great

teams. But

I don’t think I’ve enjoyed coaching as much as I have these last

two years and a big part of that is this senior class. They’re

special soccer players but they’re special people, too. They have a

lot to be proud of.”