KNOXVILLE — All the struggles that have plagued the Maryville boys soccer team throughout the season were apparent Tuesday.
The Rebels reached the Region 2-AAA semifinals despite a constant hassle to find the back of the net and losing numerous games in which a series of plays by their opponents proved enough to thwart their dominance throughout the match.
Those problems added to contending with the most talented player on the pitch all equated to a season-ending 3-2 loss to Karns.
“I think we had some chances where we were inches away tonight,” Maryville soccer coach Steve Feather told The Daily Times. “I think they had a few beautiful goals with less chances than we had.
“The five seniors we have on this team showed a lot of character to get back to this game because it is tough to do when you’re in our district, and it’s tough to do when everybody says that this is a rebuilding year because we lost 13 seniors (from last year’s team). They were one goal away from making it back to substate again.”
All of Karns’ scoring opportunities were created by the foot of senior striker Edson Castro and Maryville (9-9-2) was too slow to adjust, falling into an early deficit.
Castro hit the crossbar with a strike from just inside the box in the 15th minute to begin what would be a dominant 10-minute stretch for the reigning two-time District 3-AAA MVP.
Four minutes later, he fired a shot past Maryville goalkeeper Judson Lindley to get Karns on the board first and followed that by corralling a loose ball in the box and missing a shot left of goal moments later.
Castro put the finishing touches on the first half by dribbling through the Rebel defense before leaving a pass for Leo Rovesti, who found the back of the net to give the Beavers a two-goal advantage heading into the intermission.
He also assisted on Karns’ lone second-half goal by David Hernandez in the 63rd minute.
“I think in the first half we gave him a little too much space and we were a little too deep,” Feather said. “In the second half when we didn’t give him as much space, he didn’t do as much. He’s a good player who is fast, skillful and knows how to run at you.
“Give him credit because he came away with a great goal and two great assists.”
After cobbling together two scoring opportunities in the first half, Maryville appeared to strike first in the final half, but an offside call waived off Brandon Carter’s goal in the 47th minute.
The Rebels found the back of the net again in the 59th minute, but only after a high shot caromed off the field goal crossbar hanging over the goal and bounced in after a scrum at the goal line.
Maryville’s long-awaited goal came in the 64th minute off the foot of Colton Griffith to trim the deficit to two, but a rally never materialized. The Rebels netted a penalty kick with 35 seconds left, but by then their fate was sealed.
“They continued to generate opportunities,” Feather said. “I don’t think we necessarily played well in those last 10 minutes, but I thought the energy, the effort and the character were there, and that’s what you ask for when you’re down 3-0.
“The wheels can fall off or you can dig deep, and I think that’s what we saw out of the 11 that were out there.”
It was a symbolic end to an up-and-down season, but it is one that Maryville hopes will galvanize the program going forward.
“I think we have a backbone of good juniors coming back and good underclassmen coming back,” Feather said. “Another thing that helps us is everybody loses a bunch. We lose some key players, too, but we’re excited about the future, and what happens in the future, a lot of that is a credit to the five kids that are graduating.”