Knotted on senior night
Columbia was hoping to send its seniors out with a bang.
Vanguard had other ideas.
But in the end, neither team got what it really wanted — a win.
The Tigers battled back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the Knights 3-3 in the seniors’ final regular season home game.
The score didn’t tell the tale of the game. Columbia dominated in every facet but the scoreboard, out-shooting Vanguard 31-11.
“We had a lot of shots on goal and had a lot of kids play hard,” Columbia head coach Shayne Edge said. “They got those goals quick and we almost wanted to shut down, but guys collected themselves and played harder.”
Seven seniors were honored before the game — Brant Nelson, Chase Innocenti, Ethan O’Hearn, Alex Exum, Dilan Ward, Dustin Carwhile and Braxton Treverrow. Junior Alvaro De La Haza, a foreign exchange student here for only this season, also took part in the festivities and was escorted across the field before the game by every single one of his teammates.
“You don’t realize while you’re going through the season and things like that how much soccer means to these seniors,” Edge said. “Stuff like tonight, guys coming up to me saying, ‘Thank you, coach,’ it makes you realize this is the last year these guys are going to play at CHS. We had seven great seniors that are all really great kids, and that’s what I like more than anything.”
It looked as if senior night would be ruined early as Zachary Clement put Vanguard ahead 1-0 with a goal nine minutes into the match. Columbia answered 10 minutes later when Trent Morrison’s cross into the penalty box deflected off a Knight and went right to Darren Brock, who pushed the ball past Vanguard goalkeeper Omar Jaber.
That tie didn’t last long, though.
Before the Tigers (11-8-2) could even blink, the Knights responded on their next possession. Spencer Silitch took a deflection off a teammate literally seconds later and scored to put Vanguard back in front 2-1.
Stuart Norman then sliced and diced Columbia’s defense to double the Knights’ lead with another shot past goalkeeper Dustin Carwhile three minutes later for a 3-1 Vanguard lead.
Columbia caught a break a minute later, though, when Jaber came out to deflect a shot from Brock and injured his foot. He was replaced by Dawson Oliver and didn’t return to the game, finishing with six saves.
Oliver was just as formidable in the net, finishing with 11 saves, but Columbia managed to cut the lead in half in the 28th minute on a goal by Innocenti to send the Tigers to halftime down 3-2.
The rest of the Tigers made it a goal from there to make sure their seniors did not end up on the losing end on their special night. Two minutes into the second half, Innocenti assisted Morrison for a goal to tie the game.
“At halftime we talked about guys playing for the seniors that have been here, and they stepped up,” Edge said.
Carwhile was replaced by Caleb Strickland in the beginning of the second half, a half in which Columbia really tightened up on both sides of the ball. Vanguard only managed four shots on goal in the second session but nearly won the game in stoppage time.
Clement took a free kick just outside the penalty box that Strickland deflected into the air and off the cross bar. The ball bounced back down and straight to Spencer Taub, who shot the ball over the net to finish off the game.
It was a near disaster, but Edge was happy for his seniors and the rest of his team for battling back when they were down.
“This is probably the first or second time all year that we’ve come back,” Edge said. “We actually stayed in the game and we kept our heads in the game and we worked hard and got a second and third goal.”
Despite 22 points from forward Darrell Jones, Columbia lost at home to Forest 56-48 in a district game Wednesday night. The Tigers (10-8, 4-3) host Fort White on Friday.