In soccer, it’s all about converting chances.
Lynchburg-Clay did that and West Muskingum didn’t Tuesday, and it made all of the difference in a 4-1 loss in a Division III regional semifinal at Bloom-Carroll High School.
The Mustangs (19-0-1) advance to Saturday’s regional final at Bellbrook against Middletown Fenwick.
The Tornadoes, aiming for their second regional final in three years, finished 12-3-4 under fourth-year coach Jim McInturf.
“It was a tough game to lose,” McInturf said. “I really think if we played them again the outcome would be different. But I’m very proud of the kids. They were a great group of kids and it was a great group of parents to work with. It was really an awesome year.”
Lynchburg-Clay managed only nine shots on goal but scored on almost half its chances, as Morgan Fittro scored twice in the first half to stake them to a 2-0 lead with 40 minutes to play.
The Mustangs scored twice more in the second half, but the scoreboard didn’t tell the true story.
West Muskingum controlled play after almost scoring twice in the final five minutes of the first half, and they got within 2-1 when Shahrzad Frost converted a breakaway with 33:49 left in the game.
But Lynchburg-Clay answered with an unlikely goal four minutes later as McKayla Binkley’s shot from the top of the box popped high in the air with overspin and rolled into the net after goalie Chelcey Tusing was unable to reach it.
It was one of just four shots on goal the Mustangs attempted in the second half.
The other was Lexi Watts’ goal that trickled over the goal line after the Tornadoes failed to clear a ball out of the box after a nonkeeper save.
That made it a three-goal advantage with 11:03 to play, and that proved more than enough breathing room.
West Muskingum had six shots on goal, three corner kicks and two free kicks in the second half. Lynchburg-Clay had just one corner kick the entire game.
“It took us a while to get going,” McInturf said. “We weren’t aggressive early in the game, and I think that led to them getting their goals. Once we started playing more aggressive, I thought we outplayed them in the second half. The ball took some funny bounces.”
The first half was dominated by midfield play, but the Mustangs got on the board when Fittro got inside the box and ripped a shot past a diving Tusing for the game’s with 33:13 left before halftime.
The Tornadoes came back just seconds later with their best chance of the half as Cameron Smith corralled a ball in traffic and hit a laser that ricocheted off goalkeeper Bailey Leininger, but was recovered before crossing the goal line.
Fittro made it 2-0 with 12:20 left in the half, sending a shot past Tusing to the high side after taking a cross from near the corner.
West Muskingum had two scoring chances in the final five minutes of the half. The first came when Smith sent a near-perfect cross pass from deep in the left corner, but the Tornadoes were unable to convert from tight quarters on the back side near the goal.
The second came when Frost did the same from the wide side, only to see a shot from 10 yards sail above the crossbar.
The missed opportunities were a microcosm of the West Muskingum’s night.
“Shahrzad played very well. She really had a breakthrough season. She’s an aggressive kid and this was her kind of game,” McInturf said. “It just wasn’t our night.”