published Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Baylor's Red Raiders erupt to state final four

For a portion of its Division II-AA state quarterfinal match Saturday, the Baylor soccer team was a victim of its own success. The Red Raiders were seeded No. 2 in the state playoffs and had a first-round bye, and for 40 minutes they were missing some crispness upon their return to competition.

Luckily for them, there's 80 minutes in a match, and in those final 40 it was all Baylor.

The fourth-ranked Red Raiders went down a goal in the first half against Ensworth but rallied with a flurry of goals in a nine-minute span to advance to their second consecutive state tournament with a 4-1 victory.

Rodrigo Alonso scored two virtually identical goals off headers on corner kicks in the 70th and 72nd minutes, and the team shook off some first-half rust to get the win.

"In the first half we just weren't in rhythm," Baylor coach Curtis Blair said. "When we got down, we panicked a bit, but as the game went on we started to create some opportunities."

Baylor (10-3-4) ripped off 21 shots, but it was the Tigers who got on the board first, when Taylor Graham headed a shot low and past keeper Henrique Ribeiro in the 13th minute. Although it would be their only shot of the afternoon, it gave the visitors a 1-0 lead that they held for 50 minutes of game play.

"I thought we were very disciplined in how we defended," Ensworth coach Danny Wright said. "We didn't want to change how we played; we wanted to let them play. To their credit, we defended a lot today."

In the 63rd minute, the match was tied when Ramsay Seagle scored on a free kick. Baylor took the lead four minutes later when Robert Stagmaier scored on a rebound goal.

Alonso put the match away with his two goals.

"We tried to tailor our workout. We went hard last week, then tried to back off and not go as hard this week," Blair said. "Finding that balance is hard."

Last season, the Red Raiders didn't get that bye and didn't have that week off before the quarterfinals. But again they will be one of four teams vying for their classification's state title this week in Murfreesboro, along with McCallie, Christian Brothers and Father Ryan.

"Our goal was to be in the state semifinals," Blair said. "We know that once we get there, anything can happen.

"We're excited to be going there two years in a row."

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