Canterbury's boys soccer team has been driven this season by the memory of a loss to Evansville Memorial in the Class 2A state championship game a year ago.
On Saturday, the Cavaliers won their first hardware on their quest to avenge that defeat and earn the team's record eighth state championship. No. 1 Canterbury defeated No. 4 Concordia 1-0 in a hard-fought sectional championship game at Canterbury behind an early goal from junior Donovan Doolittle.
“It means a lot,” Canterbury forward Evan Komrska said of capturing the sectional crown, the team's 21st and second in a row. “It's one small step, and we have many more. We're going places. One small step and one great leap and we're going to be there.”
Doolittle gave his team the lead less than 15 minutes into the game with a beautiful individual display. The 5-foot-8 midfielder controlled the ball in the Concordia end, sliced through the middle of a crowd of defenders and, while dribbling to his left, slipped a shot to the right and past goalkeeper Garrett Werling.
“Donovan was getting force-marked by one of their guys, and he realized that once he beat that guy, their other guys were all off of him,” Canterbury coach Greg Mauch said. “So he just went to goal. He's a dynamic attacking player and he made them pay.”
Doolittle laughingly professed not to remember much about the play that secured the Cavaliers (12-1-3) a matchup with 18th-ranked Oak Hill in the regional semifinals Thursday.
“I remember turning with the ball,” Doolittle said. “I think they knew I was going to shoot right, so I just cut it to my left and they were coming across my body, so I just shot it with my left foot and the keeper wasn't going to save that.
“They said they were going to mark me pretty much the whole time. I just knew I had to beat him and him only.”
The Cadets (12-3-4) pressed in the final stages after being denied clean chances most of the game. Their best opportunity came in the 74th minute when Devin Derheimer controlled the ball in the box, worked around one defender and then fired a shot at the lower left corner of the net. Canterbury goalkeeper Saed Anabtawi made a stellar diving save.
Mauch praised the performance of junior defender Collin Campbell, who marked dangerous Concordia forward Elijah Macke all afternoon and kept him quiet.
“(Macke) is a heck of a player and Collin did a spectacular job on him, just spectacular,” Mauch said. “Absolutely one of the best marking performances in years for one of our backs.”