By Micah McVicker and Corey Elliot Flyer correspondents
---- — For both the Covenant Christian boys’ and girls’ soccer teams, their seasons came to an end during sectional play last week.
The Covenant Christian Warriors boys’ soccer team, last year’s state runner-up, ended its season with a 1-0 loss to Cardinal Ritter in the sectional final. An offensive struggle for both teams kept the game knotted at 0-0 until Ritter scored the game’s only goal with 28 minutes left in the match.
“Both teams fought hard the whole time,” Covenant coach Michael Johnson said. “There was no letting up. Our opportunities came with shots that were too far out. Both teams made mistakes all over the field. The way the game went we knew it would be a scrap ball for a score and it just happened to be them.”
It wasn’t the Warriors’ day, despite giving a tremendous defensive effort throughout the entire match. Ritter’s goal came on a header off of a corner kick deflection.
The season fell short of the team goal but there were many positives in defeat.
“We set our goals and expectations and then put ourselves in the finals with a chance to win it,” Johnson said. “We gave everything we possess, regardless of how big or small we are our goals and expectations are the same.”
This offseason will seem a little longer as the Warriors reflect on what could have been and begin preparing for next season.
“They need a break or they’ll burn out easy,” Johnson said. “I hope they don’t forget this loss so they realize areas of improvement like being consistent with how we play, giving effort all across the field along with the technical side of the game, wanting it more and all the simple stuff. We play as a team, win as a team and lose as a team so I hope this gives them more hunger to get back where we were.”
On a wet field, in the second Sectional 43 semifinal game Thursday night at Park Tudor, the Panthers sunk Covenant Christian’s season. Park Tudor won 3-1 and advanced to the sectional championship.
Samantha Schwab beat Covenant Christian junior goalkeeper Nadia Fulk in the sixth minute of the game for a 1-0 Park Tudor lead.
Covenant equalized on its second shot of the game off a free kick. Covenant’s Drew Ester-Bode’s arching free kick toward the far post looked harmless, but the ball bounced off Park Tudor’s goalkeeper’s palms and into the side netting.
“As a defender, we don’t really get many of those opportunities,” Ester-Bode said. “It’s really a blessing to have an opportunity like that. As a defender, we don’t really get a whole lot of the glory on those goals, so to hear the crowd yelling, that’s real encouragement.”
Covenant coach Theron Smith said the goal was really big.
“We built off of it,” he said. “We stepped our game up and really took it to ‘em. We had the ball in the attacking third for the majority of the half after she hit that. It was definitely well needed.”
Covenant had another free kick in a dangerous location as the half neared its end. Ester-Bode’s kick — this one from the right side — was a mirror image of its predecessor, but Park Tudor’s goalkeeper caught it cleanly.
Covenant did not attempt a shot in the second half as the Warriors’ heavy reliance on through balls did not net positive results.
At the 23:40 mark of the second half, Park Tudor tallied the game-winner.
In the post-game huddle, Smith said the team thanked the seniors.
“They came out and fought so hard,” he said. “They helped us out so much this year, so a lot of it was basically trying to give our thanks and respects to the seniors to make sure we send them off the right way.”