WAVERLY – A magical tournament run for the Jeeps of South Webster came to a close on Saturday afternoon.
Facing No. 2 Grandview Heights from Columbus, the Jeeps fell to the Bobcats 6-0 in only their second regional final appearance in South Webster soccer history.
“We’re proud of what these guys accomplished,” Jeeps head coach Corey Claxon said. “Really, to have one senior on the team, we didn’t expect to be here. They’ve went above our expectations in a lot of ways, so we’re extremely proud of what they’ve accomplished this year.”
“For young guys to find a way to win those big games like Northwest and Lynchburg that could’ve went either way, but somehow they found a way to win and that’s impressive.”
Grandview Heights has 10 seniors on their roster this season, and entered the match outscoring their opponents 24-1 in tournament play. The Bobcats had only surrendered 12 goals all season, but it looked like South Webster had some chances to change that early in the match.
Sam Holstein found space for a shot in the fourth minute, and Shiloah Blevins tallied another attempt in the fifth. Holstein would get another chance in the 14th, but came up short again.
“If we hit one or two of those shots early that we had, that could’ve changed everything,” Claxon said. “Really, in the first half we played well and in a lot of ways it came down to a few mistakes near the goal from just not marking very well.”
The Jeeps would finish with eight shots total in the match, while Grandview Heights posted 18.
Defensively, South Webster played sound to start things off. Keeper Tanner Voiers made several saves in the beginning of the match, including a beautiful diving save in the 13th minute on a cross.
There were also several misfires on behalf of the Bobcats in the opening 20 minutes, but in the 24th Grandview’s Manny Day scored his first of four goals to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead.
Day would score again in the 30th, and Grandview Heights led 2-0 at halftime.
Right out of the halftime break, the Bobcats continued to pounce. Day scored just seconds in to the second half, and Wes Ryan made the score 4-0 in the 44th minute.
Holstein had a shot go high in the 46th, and Devyn Coriell had an attempt saved in the 51st for the Jeeps.
Ross Day scored for Grandview Heights in the 55th, and Manny Day scored his fourth and final goal of the match in the same frame.
The Bobcats continued their impressive tournament performance, winning 6-0 over South Webster.
“Good teams like Grandview, they’ll find a way to expose your weakness and sometimes make you look bad,” Claxon said. “They’re a great team, we wish them luck and it’ll be interesting to see if they can make it to the final.”
It was a day of struggles around the net defensively, but as the season drew to a close for the Jeeps there was still plenty to be happy about.
Dee Thompson is the lone senior on the team for South Webster, and will certainly be missed for his passion for the sport of soccer.
“Dee had an intensity to him,” Claxon said. “He would have these moments where he would just push the ball forward and make things happen for us.
“I think that rubbed off on a lot of players too … it was just a good example in leadership, so we are going to miss him and his intensity.”
Thompson’s intensity was a fire for the Jeeps, who went through a lot of change over the course of the year.
“People have switched around, guys have stepped up,” Claxon said. “It’s really neat to see how they’ve changed and how they’ve improved, and it’s because they’ve worked hard.”
“A lot of teams have guys that work hard. We just had the right combination, guys that had been playing together for years and work together.”
Best of all, Claxon will get the chance to work with the majority of those guys next season, as well as freshman newcomers on the squad. It seems as though the future looks bright for South Webster with all the players returning in 2018.
“You look at that, and there’s always that potential,” Claxon said. You just hope that it does come to be, but definitely we’re kind of looking at that on a positive note that there’s a lot of potential for next season.”
“I believe these guys will work hard. A lot of them play other sports, which is great. That keeps them in shape, and it works on different muscles and mental toughness. That’s what we do at small schools, you play lots of sports and we can compete in a lot of them and that’s great.”
For a team that overachieved beyond the expectations of many, they could be right back in regionals this time next year.
The Jeeps got a taste of the tournament this year, and perhaps South Webster will have an appetite for state next season.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer