It was a tale of two halves at the Stadium of Champions on Monday night, with University heights Academy just having the better 40-minute stretch against the Hopkinsville Tigers.
Goals from Preston Thomas and Connor Dill were just enough as the Blazer defense held off the Tigers’ second-half rally, as UHA escaped with a 2-1 win over its Eighth District rivals.
“At the beginning of the first half, we played our style of soccer,” Blazers’ head coach Frankie Thomas said. “When you come into these games -- the fans play a part, the coaches play a part … we just have to keep our heads and continue to play our style of soccer.”
While the opening of the game belonged to UHA, Hoptown rallied in the final 30 minutes of play, getting a goal from Will Knight to cut the deficit in half.
While the Tigers weren’t able to get the equalizer, Hopkinsville coach Aaron Hutchison said even though it may have caused some fatigue, playing against the level of competition his team did at the Boots and Butts soccer tournament helped his bunch in a big way.
“We had a little jet lag just from having so many games,” Hutchison said. “The experience of playing good teams and seeing what it looks like to play good soccer -- the boys picked up on that.”
The Tigers showed they are capable of competing for the Eighth District Championship with its second-half performance and Hutchison is hoping his team will continue to play like it did in the back half of the game Monday night, the rest of the way.
“We were just doing a lot of dribbling in the first half,” Hutchison said. “Everybody was just trying to take the ball and run with it. We just really wanted to break down the possession and I think we did a lot better getting forward, getting possession and getting out wide.”
Thomas said the environment of the game, while it felt like a postseason game, caused some issues for his team late in the game.
“The crowd and just the environment took us out of our game,” Thomas said. “We tried to rush and tried to make sure somebody scored. We didn’t play team soccer and played a little selfish in the end.”
The Tigers showed depth in the loss as they are still missing a number of people, including Miguel Magana. Hutchison said he’s optimistic with where his team is heading once his team returns to full strength.
“We’re still missing lots of people,” Hutchison said. “For us to have subs come in and play like that, it shows the depth we can have when we get healthy.”
For the Blazers, getting a win on the board could be big for pushing the season forward.
“It’s a stepping stone going forward,” Thomas said. “Over these past couple of games, I’ve scheduled some tough opponents so we can see what’s out there. The simplicity of the game is what I’m trying to get them to understand. The teams we’ve played haven’t done anything spectacular. It’s just about being simple, knowing what to do and being in the right place at the right time.”