Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575
Carlisle stunned in state quarterfinals
Chiefs fall 4-3 on penalty kicks
Carlisle midfielder Preston Key (right) races to a ball against Covenant's Nathan Colberg on Monday at the Smith River Sports Complex. The Chiefs lost their first game of the season again Covenant 4-3 on penalty kicks and were eliminated from the playoffs. (Contributed photo)
Five Carlisle soccer players sat motionless on the turf at the Smith River Sports Complex, expressions of disbelief etched on their faces.
They were trying to make sense out of what had just happened. But there wasn't much sense to grasp.
Simply put, the better team lost Monday night.
The Chiefs' VISAA Division II state quarterfinal game with Covenant went scoreless through two 5-minute overtimes and into penalty kicks, and Carlisle's storybook first season under coach Enda Crehan came to a jolting end with a diving save from Covenant goalkeeper Jonathan Whyte.
"It always has to come to an end," Crehan said of the Chiefs' season. "We didn't think it would be tonight."�
Whyte, an eighth-grader, guessed right on Reuben George's shot a few feet inside the post, parrying it with two hands off the goal line on a full-stretch dive to his right, giving No. 9 seed Covenant the 4-3 PK win over top-seed Carlisle.
"He looked the other way; he was staring it down," Whyte said of George. "That's happened to me before a couple times.
"I saw his hips open up, that was the only place where he could put it and not hit it straight down the middle, so I guessed that way, and sure enough there it is right there."�
And with that, the top-ranked, undefeated Chiefs (18-1) lost in shocking fashion; Crehan compared the loss to "a minor-league team beating the Yankees."�
Covenant coach Bryan Verbrugge knew his team was outmatched talent-wise, and he strategized accordingly.
The Eagles packed nearly their entire team into their half of the field most of the game. At times, Covenant's entire team was in its defensive third in an effort to crowd the Chiefs' attack.
Only on a rare counter-attack, often with just one or two players, did the Eagles get forward.
"We knew it was a matter of, we couldn't match 'em," Verbrugge said. "But we decided that we could outlast 'em."�
Especially with a goalkeeper like Whyte in net.
Whyte, who did not play due to illness when Carlisle beat Covenant 6-2 in the teams' meeting early in the season, made several sprawling saves that kept the Eagles in the game, both early and late.
Carlisle also hit the crossbar twice - including once in the second overtime, on a Marvin Soyka header from Corey Gaylor's corner kick. The rebound went right to George, who fired a shot perhaps a foot over the crossbar.
It was one of 20 shots that were either blocked or fired off frame for the Chiefs. Carlisle won the overall shooting battle 29-5 and shots on goal 9-1.
"We tried everything," Crehan said. "We tried, and tried, and tried. I've got to give them credit, because they did defend. But we also didn't score."�
With Whyte in net, Covenant was plenty confident going into PKs.
"I feel like we were well-prepared for PKs, and that if it came down to that, we'd probably do pretty well," Whyte said.
The Chiefs elected to have Marvin Soyka in goal for penalty kicks rather than starting keeper Michael Decker due to Soyka's size and athleticism.
The first kick went to the Eagles, and Nathan Colberg's shot clipped the crossbar and sailed over the net, giving Carlisle the edge early.
But the teams went tit-for-tat until Soyka, Carlisle's third shooter, blasted a kick that glanced off the right post, inches from the upper corner.
That set up the final kick from George with the shootout 4-3 in favor of Covenant.
Whyte was swarmed by his teammates after saving George's shot, leaving Carlisle's players in shock - and in tears.
"There's times in life where it's not gonna be fair," said Carlisle's Preston Key. "It hurts."�
It was all set up by Covenant's ultra-conservative game plan.
"They had a whole lot more chances than we did," Verbrugge said.
"They're a great team, very well-coached. ... Carlisle came and put on a good show, and even had a chance in the end, but the ball bounced our way today."�
Crehan, a long-time coach at both the high school and college levels, said he fully expected Covenant to pack in its defense. But that didn't mean he wasn't frustrated by that style.
"They didn't come here to play soccer," Crehan said of Covenant. "We could've buried them 4-0. Hitting the crossbar twice. Numerous saves from their keeper, missing chances.
"If you want to script it, we should be in the semifinals on Thursday. But unfortunately we're not. We're the better soccer side, but wins count. That's all I can really tell you. We play soccer, they defended."�
The Chiefs went 17-5 in their last season under coach Harry Lance in 2010, with a postseason exit in the state semis. They appeared destined to go further this season - until the final whistle Monday night.
Carlisle players consoled each other at game's end - particularly George and Soyka, both seniors.
"I told both of them, "˜Listen, you guys were man enough to step up and take a penalty kick, and nobody can fault you for that,'" Crehan said.
"I'm gutted for them. I'm gutted for all the work we've put in. But all I can say is, that's the lovely sport of soccer."�
Covenant 0, Carlisle 0 (4-3 in PKs)
Penalty Shootout Summary
Cov - N. Colberg misses frame high (0-0)
Car - P. Key goal to right corner (0-1)
Cov - M. Girstantas goal to lower right corner (1-1)
Car - B. White goal to lower right corner (1-2)
Cov - G. Fekadu goal to left corner (2-2)
Car - M. Soyka miss frame right (2-2)
Cov - D. Seelman goal to left corner (3-2)
Car - C. Gaylor goal to left corner (3-3)
Cov - K. Coleman goal to upper right corner (4-3)
Car - R. George shot to left corner saved by J. Whyte (4-3)
Shots: Car. 30-4 (14-2 1st half/9-3 2nd half/3-0 1st OT/4-0 2nd OT). SOG: Car. 9-1 (6-1/2-0/1-0/0-0). Saves: J. Whyte (Cov.) 9 (6/2/1/0), M. Decker (Car.) 1 (1/0/0/0). Corners: Car. 7-4 (3-2/3-2/0-0/1-0). Fouls: Car. 11 (6/4/0/1), Cov. 10 (5/4/0/1).