By Todd Lancaster
---- — EVANSVILLE — When the Washington Hatchet soccer team left the field on Saturday, they walked away knowing they left everything on that field in their 2-1 loss to Castle, at Evansville North in the 2A sectional finals.
"We aren't hanging our heads. We could have come up with a lot of excuses, but we played extremely hard and I am so proud of this team'" said WHS coach Quintin Myers.The 13-5-1 Hatchets came into to game with an unexpected handicap, as WHS' top defender Luke Raymond was unable to play due to a concussion. This forced Myers to make a very difficult decision and move his leading scorer Austin Ghirardelli into the back row to replace him."We knew our best chance to win was to keep them from scoring, so we were willing to sacrifice some offense for defensive help," said Myers.Myers' strategy worked perfectly throughout the first 40 minutes of the game as neither team was able to get many chances in the offensive third of the pitch.Washington's best scoring chance came at the 31-minute mark, as Ghirardelli nearly connected on a header off a corner kick. Most of the first-half action was played on the Hatchet side of the field, however senior keeper Brooks Brown handled all three of the chances he faced, while Myers' dual sweepers kept Castle from any real scoring threats.Castle's first scoring chance came when Brown made a point-blank save at 35:31, followed by Jon Cotton finding the crossbar a minute later.Castle finally got on the board, at 58:42 when Landon Whilhite found Karim N'doy on shot delivered just inside the left post."Brooks really had no chance on that, it happened so quick," said Myers.N'doy then made it 2-0 with 12 minutes left to play, streaking in from the right side of the box.In spite of being down 2-0, Washington began to play its best soccer of the day, dominating the final 10 minutes of the game.Myers moved Ghiradelli back up front and he responded with a goal off a penalty kick at 8:59 to cut the lead in half. With the Castle keeper down in the box, WHS has a chance at 6:23 and Corey Miller had a shot at 4:49 left.Washington's most furious action came in the final two minutes as Castle had trouble clearing the zone, including WHS having a chance in the final 10 seconds off a corner kick."I believe that if we would have had just a couple of more minutes, we would have scored again," said Myers."We could have quit and we didn't. That might have been the best we played all year. Castle is a great team. Every kid out there is soccer player and most play year round. I could be more proud of my kids."Our seniors go out with their heads held high. We had a lot of holes to fill this year and we responded with some big wins, like the ones at Hoosier Cup and Castle earlier in the year."Castle now moves on to the Washington Regional on Thursday. Terre Haute South will play Floyd Central in the first game, scheduled for 6 p.m. Castle will play Evansville Memorial in the second game. The final is set for 6 p.m. Saturday.