Chiefs' Soccer Team Tops Eastern Mennonite
Trailing 1-0 to Eastern Mennonite in a playoff game Thursday, Carlisle didn't panic.
The Chiefs didn't consider the possibility of an undefeated regular season with a loss in the conference tournament semifinals.
Instead, they bounced back like the top-ranked team in the state.
Carlisle took the lead back before halftime and added an insurance goal in the second half, notching a 3-1 win over Eastern Mennonite in the Virginia Independent Conference semifinal Thursday at the Smith River Sports Complex.
"There was never a doubt. I could see it in their eyes," Carlisle coach Enda Crehan said.
"We preach it to them: If we get a goal down, we go get three, we go get two. And that's it, it's just a huge belief."
The Chiefs (16-0 overall), who replaced EM earlier in the season as the top-ranked team in VISAA Division II, advanced to the VIC tournament final against Holy Cross on Saturday at the SRSC.
Eastern Mennonite (10-6-2) scored the opening goal when Will Montgomery's shot went through the hands of Carlisle goalkeeper Michael Decker.
"Once that goal went in, we knew that wasn't a real goal off their skill, that was just a mistake on our part," defender Miles Rachner said. "We knew we were gonna get it back."
The Flames threatened to extend the margin on a corner kick a few minutes later, but defender Bennett White saved a header off the goal line.
Then Carlisle made a corner of its own count.
In the 16th minute, the Chiefs' Corey Gaylor played a high corner kick right at goalkeeper Isaac Driver, and the ball went off his hands and into the back of the net. It knotted the score at 1-1 five minutes after EM's opening goal.
Carlisle assistant coach Richard Hall said Gaylor's shot was intentional; it was designed to test the keeper on a windy day at the SRSC.
"That's what you hope for," Crehan said. "It was a great corner."
The score stayed that way until Carlisle's Jihun "Duke" Lee created a goal on his own just before the half.
Lee took possession inside the box, dribbled across the face of the goal with his right foot, then turned and blasted a shot just under the cross bar in the 38th minute.
"He can't go to his left. If he does, it could end up in the stands," Crehan joked. "But I tell you what, when he goes to his right, he's so tricky to play against. So tricky. He's got quick feet. He's just very dynamic."
Lee, a junior, had tried the same move twice earlier in the half, but Driver made two saves on shots on the ground. On the third attempt, Lee went high, and it paid dividends.
"I tried to go high (on the goal)," Lee said. "Actually, the other guys just told me every single time to get it off my foot. I just wanted to try to shoot."
With that goal, the Chiefs stole the momentum. Carlisle had the majority of the chances after halftime as the Flames struggled to play catch-up.
"Going down 2-1 at halftime, momentum had shifted, and we just didn't recover after that," EM coach Kendal Bauman said.
"They play very physical and they never give up, and I think that was the difference in the game today."
After the Chiefs missed several excellent chances to start the second half, they scored on another corner in the 54th minute. This time Preston Key was the taker, and his high-arching ball was crushed home by the head of Marvin Soyka waiting on the back post.
"Preston put a great ball on the back post, and Marvin is just there," Crehan said. "There's no one better to smash that ball home."
Meanwhile, Carlisle's defense all but shut down the pass-happy Flame attack, as the Chiefs won the shooting battle 18-11.
Crehan singled out the play of Rachner, who made tackles and picked off balls all over the field. Rachner had missed the first four weeks of the season with an ankle injury.
"When he got hurt, we were like a three-legged table without him," Crehan said. "He's all heart; it's amazing."
Decker made seven saves for the Chiefs.
Carlisle 3, Eastern Mennonite 1
EM - W. Montgomery goal 10:07
C - C. Gaylor goal 15:05
C - J. Lee goal 37:47
C - M. Soyka goal, P. Key ast. 53:14