CENTENARY, Ohio — The prize was within reach, but the fates just wouldn’t allow it.
The Gallia Academy soccer team showed some real resiliency and true grit, but those intangibles ultimately didn’t add up Tuesday night during a 2-1 setback to visiting Alexander in the both the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League and regular season opener for both programs at Lester Field in Gallia County.
The Blue Devils (0-1-0, 0-1-0 SEOAL) never led and were outshot 22-12 overall, but the hosts maintained their composure and continued to battle — then caught a bit of a break three-quarters of the way through regulation.
Trailing by a 2-0 count, senior Eric Gillespie had a free ball land square on his foot from point blank range — and his subsequent goal allowed the Blue and White to close to within 2-1 with 18:26 remaining in regulation.
With momentum clearly shifted, GAHS managed to produce a handful of opportunities that could have led to a tie game. Those chances, however, eventually came up short — rather it be on misses or by solid plays by the Spartans.
Alexander (1-0-0, 1-0-0 SEOAL) took a 1-0 lead into halftime after Joshua Robe came up with a goal on a crossing pass in front of the net during the 19th minute. The guests outshot Gallia Academy by a 12-5 margin in the opening 40 minutes of play.
Quenton Brady increased the AHS advantage to 2-0 following a goal in the 48th minute. The second-half shot difference was also to the Spartans’ liking, but only by a 10-7 margin.
Overall, Alexander claimed a 13-6 edge in shots on goal. GAHS had a slim 3-2 advantage in corner kicks.
Afterwards, first-year GAHS coach Richard Isberner was disappointed that things didn’t have a more favorable ending. At no time, however, was he disappointed with how his team performed in their first game this fall.
“I’m proud of my players because they all left every single thing they had on the field. I don’t think that they (Alexander) played any better than us. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t score on our chances,” Isberner said. “The first game is always the worst because everybody is so anxious. Everybody worked hard and played well tonight. We’ve got a lot of games left, but I’ll be satisfied with this kind of effort on most nights.”
Junior Caden Wilt made 11 saves in net for the Blue Devils, which included more than a handful from point blank range over the opening 60 minutes. Eric Russell stopped five shots in net for the victorious Spartans.
Gallia Academy returns to action Thursday when it hosts Point Pleasant in a non-conference matchup at Lester Field. The varsity contest is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.