The Titans entered Thursday’s 26th District final seeking their first district title since 2010 against an opponent, St. Xavier, that had beaten the Titans 10 consecutive times. Geer, a senior defender had been on hand to see the last seven defeats.
But behind a defensive effort that almost completely shut down the Tigers’ attack, Collegiate ended both of those droughts with a dominating 2-0 victory at Male High School.
“We wanted it so bad,” said Geer, one of the back line anchors who helped limit St. Xavier to only three shots on goal. “This is the biggest win I’ve ever had. It’s amazing.”
Senior Mirza Ugarak scored both goals for the Titans (20-1-1), the second-ranked team in the state’s soccer coaches association poll. He gave the Titans the lead for good less than eight minutes into the contest when he drove past the No. 5 Tigers (13-4-5) back line and launched a hard shot past goalkeeper Clayton Allen.
Ugarak added the second just 48 seconds into the second half. The senior forward chased down a long ball before it crossed the end line and sent a low cross in front of the net. Allen went down to play it, but the ball appeared to take a bad hop on the ground and rolled into the net.
The Tigers meanwhile never really had a chance to test Collegiate as they had difficulty stringing passes together and finding a rhythm offensively. Titans coach Chad Wozniak credited his team’s pressing style that constantly broke up opportunities between the midfield and defensive third of the field.
Tigers coach Andy Schulten praised the Titans for forcing his team to vary from its game plan.
“They forced us to do something we were very uncomfortable doing, and it showed out there,” he said. “Our touch was poor.”
The Titans, which won the All “A” Classic this season, entered the postseason shorthanded as leading scorer Haji Abdikadir sat out both district games after suffering a temporary dislocation of his right kneecap earlier this month. Wozniak said it’s unlikely Abdikadir, who scored 40 goals in 18 games, will play again this season, but he wouldn’t rule it out if the doctors said the University of Louisville commit was 100 percent.
Despite the loss of Abdikadir, whom Wozniak called the best player in the state, the Titans go into next week’s Seventh Region tournament as confident and as talented as any other team in the stacked region.
While both teams came into Thursday’s match guaranteed a spot in next week’s Seventh Region tournament, the game was still big for a couple reasons. For starters, it was the only district tournament final to feature two teams ranked in the top five of the coaches’ poll.
In addition, by winning, the Titans assured themselves they would not face either No. 1 Trinity or No. 6 Manual in a first-round matchup in what will easily stand as the state’s toughest region, which will feature six ranked teams. Even if St. Xavier avoids either of those teams, the Tigers would end up facing No. 21 Christian Academy.
The regional draw takes place today (Friday). First-round locations will be determined after the draw, with the semifinals and final held at St. Xavier.