SOCCER: Saline Suffers Heartbreaking Loss in Chaotic Finale to Regional Final

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The Saline varsity soccer team's season came to a heartbreaking and chaotic finish in the regional championship game at Skyline Thursday.

Salem scored the game-winning goal with 1:26 remaining to win 1-0. 

The Hornets stormed right back up the field and appeared to tie the game, but the goal was whistled off because the ref assessed a foul

Saline finished the season as SEC Red champions and district champions.

When the game was over, some Hornets were down on the field nursing injuries, some were down due to emotional anguish, and other were arguing with the officials.

The Hornets were clearly not happy with the call that eradicated the tying goal.

Senior captain Luke Allen, who missed a quarter of the game with an injury, took a short pass from Christian Rossi and suddenly found himself speeding in from the left toward the goalie. Allen sprinted in and fired the shot as the goalie came charging out at him. The shot went past the goalie before they collided and hit the post. The ball bounced out to Christian Rossi who shot as the ref blew the whistle. Rossi's shot found the back of the net, but the whistle blew the play dead, apparently ruling that Allen committed a foul when the goalie charged out at him to make the save.

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The controversial call added more grief to a heartbreaking loss for the Hornets.

Coach Ryan Williams looked at the positives.

"When (the Salem goal) went in the back of the net, it definitely shocked the system. But our response immediately - we got a shot 20 seconds later, off the post. For us to get that opportunity, speaks to what this team's about. We never gave up. We fought through so much adversity," Williams said.

Allen, early in the game, was hurt and missed 20 minutes of the game. He returned and played hurt-  and suffered further injury on the final play.

Williams loved how other players stepped up and held the fort when the senior co-captain left the game.

"Luke's one of our top players - one of the top kids in the state. That's a two-year captain. Other kids stepped in and we had a sophomore (Will Loveland) step in at center back against a team with such a good center back. For kids to step up and rise to the occasion speaks to what this team is about," Williams said. "I'm really proud of them"

One of the players who stepped up was goalie Riley Behrman, who made save after save in the first half to keep the Hornets in the game.

"We could have given up three goals if it was not for him," Williams said.

The season is over for the Hornets - but they made their mark. Christian Rossi finished his career with 95 goals. Saline's old record was 39. Riley Behrman had the district championship for the ages with two saves in the shootout and the game-clinching goal. Drew Barker said the team record for assists in a season. Saline won the SEC Red and District championships.

But one can see that legacy in the eyes of coach Williams when he talks about the way Saline came back to defeat Pioneer and nearly came back against Salem.

"Down 1-0 (to Pioneer). Down a man," Williams said. "Resilient. A resilient group. They played together. They never gave up. The chemistry of this team. The heart they showed. And to take an opponent as good as Salem is and to take them to the limit where we could have won this game...I told the team, be proud of yourself, but be proud of your teammates for putting it all on the line to win this game. I'm so proud of them."

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