Welcome back, Adam Kirsch.
Sidelined for all but eight minutes of the previous three games because of an ankle injury, Kirsch made a triumphant return for the St. Xavier High School soccer team Thursday night. He scored both goals, including a remarkable shot from 35 yards, as the Tigers beat Boone County 2-0 in a State Tournament semifinal at Paul Dunbar High School.
“It was really frustrating being out, but I’m glad to be back,” said Kirsch, a senior who has committed to DePaul. “I wanted to show that, I guess.”
No. 1-ranked St. X (26-0-2) is one win from its second straight state title and 12th overall. The Tigers will face the Paul Dunbar-Henderson County winner at 7 p.m. Saturday.
No. 23 Boone County (20-4-3) managed just four shots on goal against a St. X defense that posted its 10th consecutive shutout and 19th this season.
“We have a lot of guys with speed, and we’ve been able to break through on some defenses because of that,” Boone County coach Nathan Campbell said. “But they have so much speed back there that it was difficult to get our quick guys running on to the through balls.”
The Tigers controlled possession most of the first half but didn’t break through until the 28th minute, when Ryan Sullivan passed to Kirsch, who scored for a 1-0 lead.
St. X coach Andy Schulten credited Sullivan with making a nice play before the pass.
“Any time you get down there inside the box on the end line, the defense gets a little panicky because it’s a dangerous position,” Schulten said.
Boone County’s best chance came in the 39th minute on a free kick by Matt Melzer, who fired from 26 yards out but was stopped easily by goalkeeper Dane Roehrig.
Schulten said defender Alex McSweeney “played the best game of his life” and also credited David Means for marking Boone County’s top scorer Evan O’Hara (24 goals).
“Every time they played it to him I tried to be on his back and not let him turn,” Means said. “We knew it’s a wide field and we’d be running all over the place, but I tried to have enough stamina to keep up with him, and it worked.”
Kirsch made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute, blasting a shot from 35 yards out past Rebels goalkeeper Zach Mimms for his 12th goal this season.
“I saw him off his line, and I just decided to go for it,” Kirsch said. “I thought it was going over at first, but then I saw it dropping and knew it was going in.”
Kirsch injured his ankle during practice Oct. 18, a day after the Tigers’ 4-0 victory over Christian Academy in the Seventh Region semifinals. He missed the victory over Trinity in the final, played eight minutes against South Oldham in the semistate and missed all of Saturday’s victory over Corbin in the state quarterfinals.
“He said, ‘I’m going to play no matter what,’ ” Schulten said. “For him to reward us … that’s just his presence.”