MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A positive outcome for his soccer team helped temper McCallie coach Chris Cushenbery's slight disappointment with the Blue Tornado's performance Wednesday in the Division II-AA state semifinals.
McCallie outshot Father Ryan 9-3 yet found itself in overtime due to an inability to finish in front of the net — but with a flick of Gui Vivaldini's right foot, the Tornado were back in a familiar place.
Vivaldini took a pass around the 18-yard mark and angled a shot past Irish goalkeeper Andre Balmaceda for the score that secured a 2-1 win and propelled McCallie into a title game for the third straight year, this time against Montgomery Bell Academy at 5 p.m. EDT Thursday.
McCallie (13-3-2) won the 2017 state title against MBA, 3-2, but fell to Chattanooga rival Baylor in a shootout last season.
"We missed two open-goal chances from inside the (6-yard box) in the first half and had a bunch of really close ones," Cushenbery said. "We didn't finish. My hope is we're saving up all our finishing for tomorrow. We created a bunch of really good chances, but at the half it's 0-0.
"I'm proud of the boys for battling through. It could have been 'It's not our day,' but the boys kept battling."
McCallie had a 5-0 advantage on shots in the first half, with four those on frame and saved by Andre Balmaceda for the Irish (9-9-3). The Tornado's first goal, by Matthew Warbrick, came less than two minutes into the second half, but they relinquished the lead 86 seconds later when Will Turner scored on a penalty kick after a foul in the box.
With neither team able to create a second goal, the game went into extra time. In the second minute, Vivaldini's goal gave McCallie the cushion it needed.
"Last season was a great season," Cushenbery said. "It didn't end the way we wanted. We don't have a ton of guys on this team that played big roles in that group, but the guys who were there have wanted that chance to get back and finish strong. That's what we hope for tomorrow."