By Josh Brown
PIQUA — Tippecanoe had its chances early.
It couldn’t cash in, though, and instead saw its season come to an end too early.
The fourth-seeded Tippecanoe boys soccer team fell behind in the first 10 minutes against No. 2 Carroll, and the Patriots survived a flurry by the Red Devils at the end of the first half and held on throughout the second half for a 3-1 victory in the Division II sectional championship game Tuesday at Piqua’s Wertz Stadium.
“This year, going into the sectional, we knew that someone in the top five or six would be going home too early. A couple someones,” Tippecanoe coach Scott Downing said. “With Carroll getting put back into our sectional, and Alter and Bellbrook, someone would be going home. We just didn’t want it to be us.”
Carroll moves on to play the winner between Mariemont and Indian Hill Saturday night at Eaton for the district title. Tippecanoe, meanwhile, finished the season 17-2. The Devils, a regional semifinalist last season with a lot of returning players off of that team, had won eight straight coming into the game.
“A lot of those returners this year were sophomores last year, too,” Downing said. “So they were juniors this year. Last year was good experience for them, and this will be good experience for them coming back next year, too.”
For the opening five minutes, Tippecanoe controlled the action in Carroll’s defensive third, but it was unable to get a quality shot off. The Patriots, meanwhile, began slowly turning the tide to their favor until a three-on-two break six minutes in. The Devils’ defense blocked a shot before it got on goal and cleared the ball, but the Pats kept up the pressure.
And at the 32:40 mark, Mekhi Jones was able to put one home, intercepting a clearance attempt by Tipp on another corner kick and rolling it just inside the left post from 20 yards out.
From there, though, the Devils controlled the rest of the half, particularly the final 10 minutes. After two consecutive runs were called offsides with about 13 minutes to go, Tippecanoe turned up the pressure. Free kicks following fouls, long throw-ins and a total of six corner kick attempts in the half’s final 10 minutes — the Devils threw everything they could at the Carroll goal.
But Carroll keeper Ben Wourms and the defense were up to the task each time.
Tippecanoe’s Adam Grieshop got his head on a long free kick into the box and popped it high in the air, and Wourms was able to jump up and tap it over the net, and then he intercepted the resulting corner attempt at the 10-minute mark. With 7:30 to go until half, Alex Taylor threw it into the box and Grieshop headed it to Jacob Niswonger, who just couldn’t get a shot off in front. And with 6:30 to go, Mitch Colvin intercepted a Carroll attempt to clear a corner kick, but his 30-yard shot went high.
The Devils kept the heat on, with Colvin blocking another clearance attempt on a corner, but a teammate’s shot was deflected out and the Pats shut down the resulting corner try. And one last corner with 2:00 on the clock bounced around free in front of the Carroll goal, but the Pats were able to clear.
“That last 20 minutes, we had them pinned in. We thought for sure one of those opportunities would go in,” Downing said. “But that’s been our problem all year. We’ve struggled to score goals, especially in big moments in big games. And that’s what it takes to make a good tournament run.”
Early in the second half, Carroll shut down any momentum the Devils had built.
With 35:39 to go in the game, the ball bounced free in the box in front of Tipp’s goal, and Adam Braun was able to muscle his way through the defense and cash it in before it could be cleared, giving the Patriots a 2-0 lead.
“That was the difference,” Downing said, as two of Carroll’s goals came on similar loose-ball opportunities. “We had a couple of chances with balls like that, too. They just put theirs in.”
Tippecanoe’s first opportunity of the second half didn’t come until the 21:30 mark, but Carroll’s defense easily cleared the corner try.
And while both teams split play throughout the next 20 minutes, with neither team really putting together a solid chance, the Devils knew they still weren’t out of it.
With 10:44 to play, Mitch Colvin put that on display, getting free just inside the top-right corner of the box and rifling in a far-post shot with his right foot, stunning the Patriot fans present and giving his team new life, cutting the deficit to only one.
“By that point, we had worked so hard to get back,” Downing said. “The emotion was there, but we’d spent ourselves by that point.”
Carroll actually had a chance to get another insurance goal with 1:30 left on a two-on-one break, but the intended recipient of a centering pass slipped on the wet ground before he could get a shot off and Tippecanoe’s keeper dove on the ball. Still, play remained in the Devils’ defensive end, and with 14 seconds remaining David Austria tacked on a meaningless score to make it a two-goal win.
“We had a great year,” Downing said. “We would’ve liked to go farther, but Carroll’s a good team. We’re not ashamed of tonight’s game at all. I thought we played really well.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.