The West Jessamine boys took their best shot at the region’s best team, and it still wasn’t enough.
The Colts came up one win short of the boys state soccer tournament after one more loss to Mercer County, a 2-0 defeat in the 12th Region Tournament final Thursday at King Middle School.
The senior-dominated Titans, ranked No. 9 in the state, defeated West four times in as many games this season, twice in the regular season and twice in the postseason, en route to their first regional title.
“They’re big and strong, they’ve got a lot of talented players, and it’s one of those classes that comes through, I don’t know, once in a decade,” West coach Brock Sutherland said. “It’s a strong team. We could probably play them 10 times and maybe beat them once.”
Sutherland said making the regional finals was an achievement for West (14-11-1), which hadn’t gotten out of its district in the previous three years.
“Our whole goal was to get to this game,” he said. “If we hadn’t gotten to this game I felt like it would’ve been a disappointment, but we got to this game, we gave ourselves a chance to win. Getting through that first 40 minutes, too, where we were tied 0-0, we were right where we wanted to be. We just fell a little bit short.”
The Colts managed only two shots in the first half, but they allowed only four as they played the Titans to a scoreless draw.
Mercer (21-3-1) broke that tie 6 minutes, 33 seconds into the second half with the first of two goals by Mason Angel, who scored seven goals in three regional games in which the Titans outscored their opponents 11-1.
Landon Souder headed a ball forward toward Angel that drew West goalkeeper Wesley Holifield out of the goal. Angel got to the ball and got past Holifield at virtually the same time, firing into an empty net from 15 yards out.
“It energized them a little bit, and to get it at the time that they got it hurt us, but I felt like we fought back and we had two or three chances to get one back to even the game. And we didn’t take (advantage of) our chances, and they got one more and took it,” Sutherland said.
That happened with 19:05 remaining, as Angel scored from 18 yards when Souder passed the ball away backward to him at the top of the box.
Mercer outshot West 11-5, and the Colts had three shots on goal that were saved by Mercer goalkeeper Slade Ransdell. West’s Holifield had one save, as most of Mercer’s shots missed high or wide.
West scored only one goal in 320 minutes this season against Mercer, which has 13 shutouts.
“It was a big defensive effort,” Mercer coach Matt Vogel said. “That team is very good. We really have to be awake all the time to try to stop them, so the fact we let in one goal in that amount of time is very impressive.”
Mercer defender Corey Brown said this was the Colts’ best effort in the Titans’ four games against them.
“Tonight was their best game that they played aginst us,” Brown said. “They gave it their all, and so did we. We played very good defensively, we had good cover in the back, we were able to stay together, stay focused and ended up pulling out a win because of our defensive effort.”
West was bidding for its second regional title and its first since 2008, when it won the 14th Region and advanced to the state quarterfinals.
“I’m just proud of our guys,” Sutherland said. “They played as hard as they possibly could. Just two mental mistakes, and that was it.”