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  • Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran High School junior Noah Thomas (4) tries to gain control of the ball as he battles with Evansville Memorial High School senior Andrew Cross (13) during the first half of the IHSAA Boys' Soccer Class 2A State Finals, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, at the IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium in Indianapolis. (Doug McSchooler/for Journal-Gazette)

  • Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran High School juniors Noah Thomas (4), left, and Adam Gottschalk (11), center, react to the team's loss with senior Ben Loshe (15) after the IHSAA Boys' Soccer Class 2A State Finals, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, at the IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium in Indianapolis. Evansville Memorial High School won 2-0. (Doug McSchooler/for Journal-Gazette)

  • Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran High School players react after getting their runner-up medals for the IHSAA Boys' Soccer Class 2A State Finals, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, at the IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium in Indianapolis. Evansville Memorial High School won 2-0. (Doug McSchooler/for Journal-Gazette)

  • Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran High School senior Jon Mueller (1) makes a diving effort for the ball off a Evansville Memorial High School shot during the second half of the IHSAA Boys' Soccer Class 2A State Finals, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, at the IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium in Indianapolis. Evansville Memorial High School won 2-0. (Doug McSchooler/for Journal-Gazette)

  • Doug McSchooler | For The Journal Gazette Evansville Memorial’sOwen Klipsch, left, and Concordia’s Jon Gick battle for the ball in the first half of Saturday’s Class 2A boys state championship game in Indianapolis.

  • Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran High School react after Evansville Memorial High School scored during the first half of the IHSAA Boys' Soccer Class 2A State Finals, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, at the IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium in Indianapolis. (Doug McSchooler/for Journal-Gazette)

Sunday, October 29, 2017 1:00 am

Class 2A state soccer

Concordia can't answer 1st-half goals

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – In four years, the Concordia boys soccer team went from a three-win season to state runner-up after a 2-0 loss to defending champion Evansville Memorial in the Class 2A final at Michael A. Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium at IUPUI on Saturday.

“These guys are a good group of guys,” Cadets coach Kevin Macke said. “When they were freshmen, we had only three wins as a program, seven wins their sophomore year, nine wins their junior year and a winning season last year. To put it together this year is just incredible. The heart they put in, the work they put in. Just great.”

The Cadets knew a deep tournament run was possible during the sectional when they defeated Peru 8-0, Manchester 5-1 and Columbia City 5-0 en route to the program's seventh sectional title.

“We kind of knew that we were going to be really good, we just didn't know how good. We peaked at the right time at the end of the season and put a run together and got runner-up,” forward Joey Rucinski said. “I feel like the years previous really motivated us to put something together this year because we didn't want to go out with nothing to say about our class.”

The Cadets were unable to recover from two first-half goals from the Tigers' Andrew Cross, the 2016-17 Gatorade Player of the Year for Indiana.

Cross struck in the fourth minute, redirecting a free kick from Marky Lara, and in the 15th minute, when he received a ball in the 6-yard box front of a Cadets defender and slid it across his body into the bottom, opposite corner of the goal.

“We just let the ball bounce in the (18-yard box) on the first one, can't do that. That was our mental mistake there and they took advantage of it, and the second one, we turned the ball over in our own half,” Macke said. “We talked to the guys and we can't do that. That happened, and it's 2-0.

“But that's Cross, that's what he does. He takes advantage of mistakes.”

While nerves settled in the second half, the Tigers' defense and goalkeeper Caleb Meeks remained solid.

“We had our chances, but unfortunately their guys stayed home on a corner and were able to make a save on one,” Macke said. “I thought, for sure, we'd be able to get one on them.

“The way we were playing, the way we were pinging it around; ... I thought the second half, late, we definitely had our chances. I know they hit the crossbar a couple times.”

The Tigers started the game with unmatched intensity, and they controlled much of the possession of the first 20 minutes, as evidenced by the two early goals.

Evansville Memorial won its fourth state title and second in a row.

It's the second time the boys and girls teams from Evansville Memorial have won state titles in the same year; the girls defeated South Bend St. Joseph 2-1 in the game immediately preceding the boys game.

“They definitely started up way more heated than we did,” Concordia goalkeeper Jonathan Mueller said. “They came right off the bat. I guess our defense just wasn't ready. As the game went on, though, we started to pick it up. We just couldn't get shots off.

“It definitely helps that they've already been to the exact same spot as they were today, and it helps that they have amazing players on their team.”

Macke feels like this season's postseason tournament run was possible because of former teams and that future teams will be motivated by this year's success.

“We've had some really, really good teams that have come through,” he said. “The three-class system has helped us get here. Then, also, the guys that have previous sectionals, those guys laid some pretty good groundwork.

“We had our seventh sectional title this year, our first regional, first semistate and first time here. There's been a lot of work put in by a lot of people, and I'm glad to see a lot of them here today.”

areichel@jg.net