MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Baylor's bid for a state soccer championship came up just a bit short Thursday night.
Christian Brothers' Cole Cannon punched in a rebound of a blocked Barrett Mills shot in the 68th minute, and the Purple Wave claimed the 2014 Division II-AA state title with a 1-0 victory over the Red Raiders at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
The Purple Wave, who won their ninth title but first since 2010, attacked in waves throughout the match with a hurry-up mentality designed to keep pressure on the Baylor defense. Christian Brothers coach Rogerio Lima, who directed his last match Thursday, said his team moved the ball from side to side "to create gaps in space to penetrate."
"We always tell the guys to crash the goal because you don't know what's going to happen," Lima said. "Mistakes happen all the time, and you have to punish them when there is a mistake. Baylor was a very organized team -- they had players that tactically gave us problems -- but I think we were able to stop them and create from that point."
Baylor (14-5-1) was back on its heels for large portions of the match but was able to counterattack effectively at times and create some offense of its own. That nearly led to a goal early in the match, as Aaron Railton had an opportunity right in front of the goal. He had trouble settling the ball, though, and eventually struck a shot that sailed just above the crossbar.
The teams entered the half scoreless, but Cannon's goal forced Baylor coach Curtis Blair to have to change the attack in an attempt to equalize. The Red Raiders created some opportunities but couldn't get the ball in the net.
"Eventually, the emotional toll of yesterday wore on us," Blair said. "The effort was there and the guys did everything we asked of them, but sometimes you need the ball to bounce your way and it didn't. It bounced theirs, and they got a goal out of it."
Baylor loses 10 seniors who won 48 matches in their four-year careers, advanced to four consecutive state tournaments and won the 2012 state championship. Defender Rafael Gaglianone had the winning goal in that match and said Thursday that the 2014 group "played as a family and a team."
"I couldn't be more proud of the guys I played with," said Gaglianone, who has signed to be a place-kicker for the Wisconsin football Badgers. "My time at Baylor has been great -- the coaching staff, the people around me and the great players. I've been really blessed, and to have the opportunity unfold for me was a blessing."
Said Blair: "We had a successful season, and the seniors are leaving a legacy where they've never not been to the Final Four, and that's the standard here now.
"When you get here, anything can happen."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.