LEXINGTON – An early season win over South Gibson had to be ancient history for the Lexington boys’ soccer team. Both teams are different than they were at the beginning of the season, and this was an elimination game.
The Hornets gave Lexington their best shot, but the Tigers scored one goal early and two goals late to beat South Gibson 3-0 in the Region 7 A-AA semifinals at Lexington Soccer Complex on Tuesday.
“I told the guys that this South Gibson team is not going to be like they were at the beginning of the season,” Lexington coach Kirk Childers said. “They played better, but at this point of the season there are no easy games. You have got to bring it, especially in a game like this when if you lose, you are done.”
Lexington (15-2-4) advances to the region championship match for the second straight year. The Tigers must travel to Dyersburg on Thursday at 7 p.m. South Gibson ends the season at 8-9-1.
Junior Jace Vestal led the Lexington attack with two goals, and senior Wesley Larson added a third.
Early in the match, Vestal took a ball off a deflection of a South Gibson defender and scored for the 1-0 lead five minutes into the match.
“Coaches tells us about tipping the glass, and that first goal helped us to get the glass leaning,” Vestal said. “It was a momentum boost.”
That goal put the Tigers in the driver’s seat, but South Gibson was not going to allow that goal to deter them. The Hornets proved to be better than the 4-0 loss they had earlier in the season to Lexington.
“We were fortunate to come out and score early to relieve a little of the pressure,” Childers said. “There was some uncertainty at times because we were still only up 1-0.”
And the next 64 minutes went scoreless. Lexington had some chances, but the South Gibson defense allowed little to go past them.
In the 69th minute, the Tigers got that important second goal from Vestal off an assist from Larson for a momentum swing.
“The first goal gave us momentum, so we had to finish changes as the game went on,” Vestal said.
Lexington added one more goal as Larson created space on the right side of the 18-yard box.
The Tigers’ defense continued to not allow any goals for the fourth match of the postseason. That is 360 minutes of shutout defense in tournament play.
“Our defense is a strong force to get through,” Childers said. “And it helps when you have a good goalkeeper behind them.”
The task gets tougher on Thursday as Lexington faces Dyersburg for the third time this season. Lexington beat them 4-0 at Union and tied them 3-3 with two goals in the final seven minutes at Best of the West.
“This goes back to the hard work and time that we have put in at practice,” Vestal said. “Everyone has to play at the best of their abilities.”
Michael Odom, 425-9754