It came down to the final penalty kick.
After coming back from being down one goal early and fighting through two 10-minute overtime periods the Union Wildcats were unable to push past Lutheran-St. Charles (3-1), losing 2-1 Monday.
“It’s just one of those games where it’s tough,” Union Head Coach Matt Fennessey said, “just fell short.”
The loss came in Union’s first game of the McCluer Soccer Tournament, which was played at the Union Middle School.
Union’s next game of the tournament is against Hazelwood East at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Union Middle School.
Union’s Dillon Breeden, Tylor Brown and Alex Ciot each scored penalty kicks. Union needed to score its fifth penalty kick to tie and send the game into a second round of PKs, but Andre Ciot’s shot bounced low off the left post.
The Wildcats were outscored 4-3 in penalty kicks. Lutheran-St. Charles’ Nick Polymeropolous was credited with the Cougars’ second goal.
This is the first time that Union has gone to penalty kicks this season.
“It happens to me every year. Every time we go into penalty kicks the first time we’ve never practiced them and then it just happens,” Fennessey said. “I don’t know whether I do that by design or not, but I kind of like it. It just kind of gives a different dimension and it makes the kids think a little bit.
“I think it’s good for them, win or lose, because when it comes down to district time, then if you have to be in that situation they’ve felt the pressure of being in there and taking a kick, for the kids that are going to take a kick, and the goalie has to go in there and face real action on it. It was good.”
The Cougars took an early lead, with Jeff Masters hitting a longer shot low in the right corner of the goal in the second minute of the game.
Union’s Nick Schumaker evened the score with 15 minutes left in the first half when he beat the defender and slipped the ball past the goalie. Andrei Ciot was credited with the assist.
The Wildcats had several chances to take the lead in regulation. Multiple balls played in from the wing were cleared out before Union could get a foot on it or get a good shot.
“Lutheran St. Charles is a team that’s pretty evenly matched with us so it was just tough to get back and get that goal,” Fennessey said. “We had plenty of scoring chances in the first half and the second half. We just were a step behind or a step in front of a lot of those chances and just came up empty on a lot of them.
“The boys were working hard and it’s just tough to lose in penalty kicks after everybody’s worked so hard.”
Although Union scored in the first half, the team’s intensity seemed to pick up after halftime.
“The communication just wasn’t very good and we just needed to communicate with each other better, so that was the big thing that we focused on and not taking plays off and finishing every play,” Fennessey said. “It’s just kind of one of those things where you’ve just got to look at your teammates and just say that ‘I’m going to do it for you,’ and so that’s kind of what I told them. I said, ‘You’ve just got to play a little harder for your teammates and just expect more out of yourself.’ ”
Union was without one of its starters for part of the second half and all of overtime. Nathan Saleniuc rolled his ankle and left the game about halfway through the second half. Fennessey expects he will be unable to play for some time, but is unsure of how long.
“Nathan, he’s one of our starters and he’s a senior, so he would’ve been a big help for us, but Dylan Pich filled in and he did a great job,” Fennessey said. “He’s another senior and he filled in without any letdown or any drop off in play, so that was good.
“Really our defense played pretty well, only allowing the one goal early, but then after that we shut them down pretty well. Tylor Brown did a nice job playing stopper and also Dillon Breeden did a good job. It was good to see. We had good wing play tonight, too. Emmet (Parker) did a nice job, had a couple good crosses in there and almost finished some, too.”
Trey Fink played all 100 minutes in goal for Union and had 12 saves in the loss.