You get what you get
When you’re one of only four teams remaining in the state, you’re going to have to a pretty good team. By the time you get into the semifinal round of any statewide bracket, the deadwood is long gone, and a lot of pretty good teams are gone, too.
Still, no one could blame the Boyle County boys soccer players and coaches if they privately wished they could try their luck against one of the one of the other two teams that will be joining them in Georgetown for Thursday’s semifinals besides St. Xavier.
But that isn’t the way tournaments work. Boyle’s lot is to play St. X, which is clearly the best in the state this year and can make a strong claim as the best program in the state as well. Since the KHSAA began staging soccer championships in 1972, St. Xavier has won eight boys titles, one behind the high-water mark of nine set by Ballard. And the current version of the Tigers has won 41 of its last 42 games, has been ranked No. 1 in the state throughout this season and has not one, but two legitimate Mr. Soccer candidates. It’s an historic night for Boyle soccer, and indeed for soccer throughout this area, but it’s a horrible matchup for the Rebels.
Cris McMann doesn’t need those nuggets to know what his team is up against. The Boyle coach hasn’t seen St. X play, either, but he knows full well how great the difference in the two teams’ talent is. And he knows that no one is giving the Rebels a chance Thursday night.
But it took only a few minutes of talking with McMann earlier this week to realize that the Rebels will play the game as best they can and will do so with complaint. They may try to play more defense than offense, as they did when they defeated West Jessamine in their quarterfinal last week, but they won’t line up all 11 players across the goal mouth or try any other radical defensive tactic. “That wouldn’t be good for soccer,” McMann said, which is another way of saying he doesn’t want to make a mockery of the game.
And the Rebels will play to win. McMann wasn’t about to use phrases like “no matter what happens,” and he probably wouldn’t stand for the players using them, either, because to dwell on any outcome other than the one you want is to admit defeat before the game begins.
Countless teams in every sport have been in the position Boyle will be in Thursday night at Toyota Stadium, and most of them get exactly what you expect them to get. But some of them win, and that’s why all of them keep trying.
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Here’s a link to our preview of Thursday’s game, with much more from McMann, who had many of these same players on Boyle’s middle school team before getting a battlefield promotion to head coach of the high school program in the middle of the 2004 season.
This year’s seniors were playing for him then as eighth-graders, and he has said more than once in recent days that he thought great things were possible for them even then. And McMann is more than willing to share the credit for their success
“I’d love to be able to say I did this. Every coach knows you can do a lot in the three and four years that you have them, but this just shows what our youth program, the youth coaches, the club team in town (have done). This is development from when these kids were little, and it just shows that soccer in the Danville-Boyle County area is getting better.”
McMann talked in the preview story of what this occasion means for the entire local soccer community, and two of the things I saw during the postgame celebration after the West Jessamine game underscore that point:
The mix of kids joining the Rebels on the field included not only their counterparts from the Boyle girls team but also players from Danville and even Marion County, who said they’d be in Georgetown backing them this week. And one of the first people extending his hand in congratulations once McMann got a quiet moment after that game was Danville coach Brent Beaumann.
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Kykicks.com, which focuses on the high school game, has an interesting way of tracking and predicting the postseason games that includes some pretty impressive guest prognosticators. Last week, “Chuck Norris” was predicting the quarterfinals — “Chuck Norris doesn’t predict, he decides” — and even though he missed on the Boyle game and one other to go 2-2, “Chuck Norris says he is perfect.”
This week’s guest is “Coach K,” the Duke basketball coach who says he knows a little something about final fours because he has been in 10 of them. He likes St. X and Highlands, by the way.
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Here’s hoping things go more smoothly in Georgetown than they did at tonight’s girls semifinals, which were delayed more than 2 1/2 hours because Highlands was held up in traffic that extended its trip by almost three hours. The 6 p.m. opener didn’t start until 8:36, and the second game started after 10:30.