by Chris Lee, BigRmedia Staff
Christ Presbyterian Academy has just three seniors on its team, and two of them came up big on Tuesday.
Forward Andrew Howard scored an early goal, and Adam Casseri keyed the Lions’ stellar defense, as CPA (15-3-1) beat Murfreesboro Central 2-0 in the quarterfinals of the TSSAA Class A-AA State Soccer Tournament at Richard Siegel Soccer Complex in Murfreesboro.
Sophomore John Michael Ritchie added a second-half insurance goal for CPA, which advances to play Greeneville (18-4–2), a 4-0 winner over Jackson Christian on Tuesday.
It’s the 13th win in a row for a program whose coach, Tom Gerlach, wasn’t sure his team would be here two months ago after a 2-2-1 start to the season just two months ago.
“We lost probably 60-70 percent of our goal scorers, so we really weren’t sure what our season was going to look like,” Gerlach said. “We have a lot of young guys out there, and you could tell at the beginning of the game, we were a little jittery in the back line.
“And I told them at half, congratulations, all of you have now played in the state tournament, you can settle down.”
Settle down, they did.
Murfreesboro Central (17-3) managed just four shots on goal, thanks in large part to the steadying presence of Casseri on the back line.
At about the 29th minute, he flicked away a chance after cross from the right side, then, helped thwart another good chance when a Tiger forward had a good opportunity inside the box later in the half.
“We really didn’t have any solid attacks on our line, except for the ones they would just boot over,” Casseri said. “That was kind of our tactic with this team today.”
The Lions also dodged a bit of a bullet late when Murfreesboro Central’s Stephen Falter couldn’t convert a great look in the box.
“(Casseri) and Harrison Rody just did a phenomenal job, and Garrett Beam made the saves he needed to make,” Gerlach said. “Garrett only started playing soccer three years ago, and he was district tournament MVP. He’s a phenomenal goalkeeper.”
Just 5:05 into the game, Howard found room and launched a shot past goalie Nathan Clark from the right side around the 18, one that hit the left post and glanced in. It looked like a cross, but Howard said it played just the way he intended it.
“We practice all the time, if you’re on the flank, just get it to the back post,” Howard said. “I was actually just trying to get it on frame. It just bounced the right way, in a good direction for us.”
That wasn’t so much the case for Ritchie, who lofted one from the right side and to everyone’s surprise, settled in the top left corner of the net.
“In my mind, I did want to cross it,” Ritchie confessed, “but the way I kick it, I chop it and it curves. The coaches told me when I came over, that combined with the wind, my curve and my chop on a not-so-pretty cross turned out to be a pretty spectacular goal.”
“He meant to do it,” Howard cracked.
The game with Greenville is scheduled for 6:30 on Wednesday at Field No. 1 at the Siegel Soccer Complex. It could be a busier day for Beam; Greeneville put 14 of its 25 shots on goal on Tuesday, with four different players scoring.