By Craig Vonder Haar
Missourian Sports Writer
Controlling possession of the ball for most of the game and capitalizing on opportunities led to a district soccer championship for Borgia.
Playing in the championship game of the Class 2 District 9 Tournament Tuesday at Borgia, the top-seeded Knights knocked off third-seeded Union, 5-0.
Borgia’s official overall record is 4-14, but was 15-3 in actual contests on the field.
The Knights had to forfeit all of their matches, except the first two of the season and the two district games, due to having an ineligible player that was caught prior to the district tournament.
Leading 3-0 at halftime, Borgia put the game away against Union with a pair of second-half goals.
“It’s a great accomplishment. We’ve been talking about this game all season. It’s been what we’ve been working toward,” said Borgia Head Coach Grant Kang. “We’ve been very serious coming into the game. We’ve been paying attention to things like curfew and proper hydration and nutrition to provide a great performance.”
Borgia’s ball control was the difference in the game.
“That’s exactly what they did. We game planned for that. Even when you game plan for it, you can’t stop every one of the passes they make,” said Union Head Coach Matt Fennessey. “They found the holes and that’s what good teams will do to you. The credit goes to them for having a great game plan.”
And the Knights executed their game plan.
“We just tried to continue working on what we’ve been doing all season, which is playing the ball around to our teammates,” Kang said. “It was nice that at the end of the season, we were able to put together what we’ve been working on all season and trying to maintain our possession.”
Borgia will take on Rolla (23-4) Tuesday at the Kiwanas Soccer Field located at the Bray Sports Complex on the campus of Rolla High School.
The Bulldogs defeated Helias 3-2 to win the District 10 crown.
“It’s going to be really tough,” Kang said. “In the state coaches poll, Rolla is ranked higher than us, so we will be considered an underdog.”
The sectional match will kick off at 6 p.m. Admission is $6 for those ages 6 and older.
The field can be reached by taking the U.S. 63 exit south through town. Turn left at 10th Street (the Gale Bullman facility at Missouri Science & Technology is at that same intersection) and drive to the high school campus. The soccer field is located next to the football stadium.
“We’re going to need to convert our shot opportunities to goals,” Kang said. “We had some misses (against Union). In a tight game, we may not get more than one or two opportunities to score. We have to increase our finishing percentage on some shots.”
Overall, Kang likes the way the Knights are playing.
“I like how our team is playing unselfishly. I like how we’re communicating. We’re keeping our composure under pressure,” Kang said. “Those are all things that as we move forward, those smaller things might end up being difference makers.”
Borgia forward Jake Erwin scored a pair of unassisted goals in the first 10 minutes of the game against Union to give the Knights a 2-0 lead.
“It was important for us to put some points on the board and even more importantly, try to dig down after those scores and try to prevent a surge by Union,” Kang said. “They absolutely did their best to try to get those equalizers and surge back. They worked very hard, which is characteristic of a Matt Fennessey team.”
Borgia increased its lead to 3-0 in the 36th minute when Kevin Birk scored on an assist from Ben Kang.
The Knights led 3-0 at halftime.
Jordan Miller netted a pair of goals in the second half, the first in the 44th minute followed by another in the 59th minute.
Erwin and Zach Schweissguth were credited with the assists.
Joe Scheuler registered the shutout in goal.
Dillen Myers played all 80 minutes in goal for the Wildcats.
“Our defense has been very solid,” Kang said. “We’ve had three different people play sweeper this year. All of those guys know each other well and work as a team no matter what slot anyone is in.”
The Wildcats (13-11) started and ended their season with a loss at Borgia.
In between, Fennessey was pleased with the team’s overall effort.
“This is where we expected to be. When we set out our season goals at the beginning of the year, we wanted to be in the district final game. We knew it would be a tough road against Borgia,” Fennessey said. “As far as disappointments, not really. We’re happy for the boys. They did a lot of great things this year. We took third place in the McCluer Tournament, our JV got first place in their tournament, we won the conference and got second place in districts. It’s been a successful year. The boys deserve credit because they did a lot of learning from the first game of the year when we lost 7-0 to Borgia. We’ve come a long way. We’re happy.
“We had 10 total seniors and eight who were playing. It was a lot of help to have that senior leadership. Guys like Jordan Nowak, Nathan McKinney, Dillen Myers, we’ve had some solid leadership from those guys.”
The future looks promising for the Wildcats.
“We’re going to go back to the drawing board, put in some time and work it out in the offseason. We’ll be ready for next season,” Fennessey said. “We have some kids coming back. The Ciot brothers (Alex and Andrei), our sweeper Dillon Breeden, Nick Schumaker, all will be back. We have a number of varsity kids who will be back and who got varsity experience this year. We’ll have to fill some holes, but we’ll do our best when our time comes.”