MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Asked to describe his Arts & Sciences soccer team after its 3-1 loss to Gatlinburg-Pittman Tuesday in the Class A soccer quarterfinals, Wes Castle needed only a moment before spitting out the word, "Grit."
Advancing to the state tournament for the first time since 2019, the Patriots fell victim to the sometimes-unfortunate game of soccer, where a result isn't always indicative of a performance. CSAS played even with the Highlanders for a half, which ended in a 1-all tie, and outplayed its opponent for the vast majority of the second half. But what the Patriots didn't do was take advantage of any of its opportunities, and a foul in the box in the final five minutes led to a penalty kick that Gatlinburg-Pittman put away, followed by another goal a minute later to make the score look a bit more lopsided than it was.
"They never gave up. They never gave up," Castle said. "We've had some close games against some teams in Chattanooga — some teams that are here — and we got down but we don't ever give up. It was one of those things where we played really well in the second half. We played OK in the first half, but we could have played better."
The Patriots had outscored their five postseason opponents prior to Tuesday 38-0, unleashing a ruthless offensive attack. The Highlanders' response was a "park the bus" mentality, playing most of their defenders back and making any quality shot attempts difficult for CSAS, which got its goal from Gavin Castle in the 16th minute but was outshot 7-6 by GP.
"In the second half we were out there, just hammering, hammering, hammering," Castle said. "We tried to play our style, play possession ball down the field and the opportunities will come, but we couldn't get it in the net."
To Castle's point about the level of competition they faced, one of the Patriots' four losses was a 1-0 defeat against Signal Mountain. CSAS also had regular-season losses to Class AAA sectional club Howard and to Chattanooga Christian.
One of their three draws came against East Hamilton. The Eagles and Hurricanes were two of the eight representatives in the Class AA state field, both also falling in quarterfinal matches Tuesday night. Signal Mountain lost 2-0 to Nashville's Martin Luther King, while East Hamilton played Valor College Prep to a 2-all tie in regulation, but lost 5-3 in penalty kicks.
The Hurricanes got both goals from senior Benji Cole, erasing a 2-0 Valor lead in the second half. Dawson Bovell, Brayden Hunter and Ethan Hixson knocked in shots during the shootout, but Valor went 5-5 to advance to Wednesday's semifinal against Knoxville Halls. MLK will face Greeneville in the other Class AA semifinal.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com.