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KCHS falls in ‘PK’ round
Catholic fails to ‘finish’ NDHS: Leader

It’s cruel enough to lose a state tournament soccer game on overtime penalty kicks. It’s excruciating to lose it on the last kick. Knoxville Catholic, 2006 state runner-up, lost to Notre Dame 1-0 (4-3 on penalty kicks) during the opening round of the Class A/AA state tournament at Richard Siegel Park in Murfreesboro Wednesday, May 23.

Grabbing away both the district and region championships from rival Christian Academy of Knoxville — eventual A/AA state champion — Catholic’s season ends with a 19-4-2 record.

Perhaps KCHS’s best scoring chance in the second half came in the 64th minute. Senior midfielder Chase Nieri got inside position on a defender while dribbling toward the goal and fired just inside the box. It hit the crossbar.

“It was strong game — we seemed like we held a little bit more possession of the game,” KCHS head coach Mark Leader said. “I thought we were definitely in control of the whole game, there’s no question about it — we just couldn’t finish tonight. Unfortunately, when it goes to penalty [kicks], it’s just whoever hits it right gets it.”

Catholic led in shots-on-goal 6-3.

“My guys put everything they had and left it all on the field,” Leader said. “They’re all exhausted, mentally and physically. When it comes down to penalties it’s just the luck of the draw. It’s very frustrating.”

As for the 2007 season, “I’ve very proud of them all, they did a great job,” Leader said. “And like I told them, ‘jump back quickly and move on to the next thing.’”

Seniors Nieri and defender Sean Leader are standout starters among four Irish seniors who finished their careers. “I’m very proud of them, they’ve both been working very hard,” the coach said. “[As] team leaders, they’ve done a very good job of keeping this team together. I wish them well in the future.” Goalkeeper Andrew Hamil and forward Steven Epps are the other KCHS seniors.

In overtime PKs (five for each team until someone wins with equal number of shots), KCHS freshman defender Luke Mishu beat the ND goalie to the right, while Notre Dame’s Ben Daugherty went left to tie the score.

With Catholic down 2-1 after two rounds, Nieri converted then ND pushed a shot wide right to keep the score tied. Each team converted in the fourth round, with junior midfielder Hank Holleman doing the honors for KCHS.

Tied 3-3, Catholic’s critical fifth shot was saved by the ND goalie, then Blake Pelton converted going left to give the Chattanooga Irish (12-6-0 final record) victory.


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