Westminster Christian Academy boys soccer has reached the end of the road this season.
The Lions made it to their third state championship appearance in four seasons, but fell just short of the title. The King’s Academy took it home with a 2-1 win.
Finding an open shot quickly, the Knights scored five minutes into the game. Westminster Christian’s nerves calmed down after that, and its players started applying more offensive pressure during the remainder of the half.
With 10 minutes until halftime, Colin Hovater scored for the Lions to tie it before the game reached halftime.
The King’s Academy defense cleaned it up the second half, limiting clean cut opportunities for Westminster.
But the game came down to the final few minutes.
A high corner shot was saved by the Lions’ keeper, but a fumbling of the ball on the way down allowed a goal by the Knights with less than four minutes remaining in the game.
That goal proved to be all the Knights needed in order to defeat Westminster Christian.
“We were at that point where you’re just throwing the kitchen sink, just kicking the ball forward to see if we can get lucky and get something in the last few minutes and they were able to hang on,” said Lions head coach Michael Hansen.
While it was not the outcome the Lions had hoped for, it was their goal to return to the title game after losing seven seniors among a handful of other players from last year’s squad.
They needed upperclassmen and younger players to step up and into those positions, and they did just that to help Westminster Christian earn another trip back to the championship game.
“A year ago if you were to ask me, or a lot of the guys on the team, or tell them ‘You’re gonna lose 2-1 in the championship game,’ I don’t know if anyone would have taken it because I think everyone wants a shot to win it, ”Hansen said. “But I think everyone would have been like, ‘OK, we’re still competitive and successful, even despite the numbers that we lost from last year.’ So, it’s a really big testament to what this year’s team was able to accomplish. ”
Nevertheless, the program’s two seniors, Andrew Mulkey and Peyton Sanders, leave the program with a championship ring after taking it all in 2019.
“Sanders was a four-year starter at right back and pretty much from day one was a good fit for that position,” Hansen said. “Last year, [Mulkey] played an important role for us off the bench. And this year, he played a huge role for us as one of our captains as a senior. And so both of those guys were integral to our program over the last four years. And then especially this year, just providing that leadership as seniors. ”
Hansen hopes the team’s returning players will stay hungry for another championship run next year. With nine possible starters coming back, next season’s lineup will remain as strong as ever.
Those players will be a crucial part as Westminster Christian changes leagues, moving from the Georgia Association of Private and Parochial Schools to Georgia Independent Athletic Association.
“I want to see them take a deep breath and accept the fact that they fell just short,” Hansen said. “When I think each of those guys has done that and look around, they think, ‘Hey, we’re gonna have a legitimate shot to be competitive again next year’ and build on what they and the seniors from this year have left behind. for the program. ”