Last year, Republic’s soccer team surprised a couple of favored opponents on the way to a state final four appearance. This year, it’s Republic’s turn to feel the sting of the upset bug.
Joplin, seeded fourth in Class 4 District 11, stunned top-seeded Republic with a 2-2 (5-4) win on penalty kicks in the district semifinals. The loss unexpectedly ended Republic’s season and closed out the career of a senior class that has helped transform Republic into one of southwest Missouri’s top programs.
From the outset, Joplin (8-16) showed it was ready to compete with Republic (15-9). The Eagles scored five minutes into the game and dominated possession for most of the opening 20 minutes. It wasn’t until nearly midway through the first half that the Tigers began to assert control and get some scoring opportunities of their own. In the 32nd minute, Drew Flippin scored on a free kick from about 25 yards out to even the score at 1-1.
In the second half, Rashawn Davis put the Eagles back on top 2-1 in the 45th minute, and Republic spent much of the remainder of the game putting furious pressure on the Joplin defense. In the 51st minute, Austin Beck banged the ball off the crosspost. In the 55th minute, Chris Pacheco got a contested look, but popped the ball over the top of the goal.
Republic tied the game in the 63rd minute on a penalty kick by Drew Flippin, but the Tigers couldn’t score again to stave off the upset, and the game was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation.
Senior goalkeeper Dalton Ghan shone down the stretch. In the final minute of regulation, he made a spectacular save to force overtime, advancing to his left, then diving back to his right, fully extended, to stop a shot across the box. Four minutes into overtime, Joplin’s Davis broke away for a one-on-one opportunity, but Ghan advanced, forced an early shot, and made another save. Three minutes later, he made another diving save, tipping the ball just wide on another Joplin shot.
Republic’s best scoring opportunity of the two 15-minute overtime periods came in the 93rd minute, when Flippin fired a shot but hit the cross-post.
In the penalty-kick tiebreaker, the teams were tied 4-4 after five kicks, with each goalkeeper turning in one save. On the sixth kick, Joplin’s keeper made a second save, and Joplin fired home the game-winner after that.
“There’s not much you can say. We missed some opportunities that would have sealed the deal for us, and you just can’t do that in districts,” says coach Kevin Hauck. “We let [Joplin] stick around, and they did a good job. It wasn’t one of our best nights, unfortunately.”
Having experienced a final four trip a year ago, Hauck says losing in the district semifinals is even more difficult. But mostly, he says, he’ll miss this year’s seniors, who were freshmen when he first took the coaching job at Republic.
“It’s harder because of [having] such a good senior group. What they’ve been able to build with me has been pretty special, so that’s been tough,” he says. “To me, that’s what makes it more difficult than anything.”