After a season of tantalizingly close losses for the Republic soccer team, things went the other direction for the Tigers in the worst possible way in Tuesday’s district semifinals. Top-seeded Ozark pulled away in the second half for a 6-0 victory, advancing to the district title game Thursday.
Throughout Republic’s injury-riddled season, coach Kevin Hauck stressed to his team that their many one-goal losses showed they could compete with anyone when districts rolled around. And for about 25 minutes of the first half Tuesday, that’s exactly what Republic did, holding Ozark to a scoreless tie. But just past the midway point of the half, Ozark got its first score. It scored a second goal a few minutes later, making the halftime score 2-0.
But just two minutes into the second half, Ozark stretched its lead to 3-0, then around the middle of the second half, things fell apart for Republic. Ozark scored three goals in a little over three minutes, doubling its lead and putting the game out of reach.
Republic had lost 1-0 to Ozark earlier in the season, before injuries riddled the roster.
“[It’s] a completely different team for us,” coach Kevin Hauck said after the game. “But even with that all year long, we’ve been in every game, and this was our worst deficit. So it’s disappointing to have that. You hope for a better outing, especially in districts. But give all the credit to Ozark. They played great tonight.”
Hauck said the 6-0 score obscured the fact that Republic goalkeeper Drake Lightfoot played well against a withering barrage of shots from Ozark.
“Drake played a great game. He made some fabulous saves, and they just hit some great shots on him.”
After the season-ending loss, Hauck said he believes the adversity his team experienced this season, which required him to play more younger players than expected, will pay off in the long run.
“I learned a lot this season from moving around a lot of the younger players, seeing where they can benefit us in the future,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people coming back next year, and so I think that I have a better understanding of how to piece next year’s team together.”
Tuesday’s game was the last for Republic seniors Holden Kendrick, Braden Judson, Nathan Stalnaker, Jackson McGuire, Brendon Roberts, and Isaac Jordan.