New Hope High School midfielder Connor Rose looks to make a move against Northeast Jones in their match Monday night in the second round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State tournament in Columbus. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch
February 13, 2018 9:10:21 AM
The New Hope High School's boys soccer team's late-season surge and best season since 2005 ended Monday in a 2-1 loss to Northeast Jones in the second round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State tournament.
The Trojans fell behind 1-0 in the first half for the third-straight game, then went down 2-0 six minutes out of the break. Jake Crosson converted a penalty kick a minute later, but the Tigers parked the bus for the last 35 minutes and escaped with a win, despite a pair of shots that hit the post in the waning minutes.
New Hope (13-5) advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2005, coach Andrew Olsen's senior season at the school.
New Hope loses 12 seniors, including its entire backline.
"Once I turned around and saw the scoreboard, it hit me that it was over," said Cai Earhart, New Hope center back. "Thanks to all the fans and the teammates I played with."
The Trojans hoped to make it three overtime decisions in as many matches after clinching a postseason berth against rival Caledonia and winning a penalty shootout against Corinth. But two Alexander Hentze goals initiated by free kicks, along with Northeast Jones' willingness to live in its half in the second, undid New Hope's comeback bid.
Hentze's first goal in the 24th minute came after the Tigers had peppered New Hope's box with six set pieces in a three-minute stretch. New Hope defended the mix of corners and free kicks perfectly during that span, only to see Hentze find an opening past Bryce Braddock several minutes later.
"We've been strong against set pieces these last nine games, but when there's so many back-to-back, you're just kind of questioning whether you want to go up or stay and wait for the rebound," Olsen said. "I think we got caught in that."
Hentze's second goal came on a long-range free kick that fell in the box between he, Braddock and two defenders. New Hope's backline froze, and Hentze pounced.
"I saw my right back, (Dawson) Vasser, right next to me, and I thought he was coming on to it, but we all hesitated," Earhart said. "(Hentze) was first to the ball.
"It's terrible. I feel like we could have played a lot harder and finished the way we should have. We just weren't ready for it."
Olsen said the team's trend of slow starts lingered through much of the season, but he maintained confidence in his senior-laden bunch to break through. The effort was there in the second half -- New Hope had seven set-piece plays and fired 14 shots, but only two threatened the goal.
The Trojans will rue their missed opportunities in the first half, both before and after Northeast Jones took the lead.
In the eighth minute, Toni Nogales curled a perfect ball into Ellis Clark, who had a one-on-one opportunity with the goalkeeper, but Clark took one touch too many and missed from close range. Ellis looked to make up for it in the 39th minute when his half volley off a long throw hit the crossbar.
"As long as there's time on the clock, I know they're going to keep fighting and someone's going to claw their way out of it," Olsen said. "These past few games, we've had the mentality that we'd have the opportunity to get it done. We were living on the edge, and it finally caught up to us."
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