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NEWPORTâ€“The sight after the game of an exhausted Paul Samaan laying on the ground, inhaler in hand, summed up the effort that the UCA boys gave in their tough-luck 1-0 loss to West Rutland Tuesday afternoon in the opening round of the Division IV soccer play-offs.
"The boys gave everything they had today, but you still hate to lose a game like this 1-0," said coach Alyssa DeLaBruere.
UCA matched their opponents step for step, chance for chance, but in the end a squibbler that got past Chris DeLaBruere decided the contest.
In the early going West Rutland and the Crusaders traded opportunities.
Ji Kim and Jon DeLaBruere were in the thick of the offensive action all afternoon, and it was Jon's attempt on goal that nearly put UCA up 1-0.
Ji took the ball down the right side of the pitch, fed it over DeLaBruere, but keeper Josh Smith had the angle on the ball.
For the visitor's, Dennis Phillipsâ€™ tip of a free kick nearly made it in, but it went just wide.
Phillips was a bit of an attraction during the game, entertaining West Rutland's fans all afternoon with his long distance flip throws.
25:00 minutes into the half, West Rutland was awarded a penalty kick and Brandon Groh lined up at the six to take the shot.
He fired low to the left hand side, looking to squeeze one inside the post, but Chris dove and made a spectacular stop to keep it out.
But a minute and a half later, Groh scored on a partial breakaway to give the green and yellow the lead.
A long free kick bounced over the Crusader defenders, and Groh took off with the ball.
Sang Mo Kang made a herculean effort to get back, almost catching the West Rutland forward, but Groh got the shot off just in time and it found a crack and went in.
Groh almost did it again, but Samaan hustled back to strip him of the ball.
Marc Quirion nearly tied the match on a direct, but Smith leaped and punched the ball over the cross bar.
Ji had the last chance of the half for UCA, but was denied in his quest.
In the second, the play only improved for the Crusaders.
Jon and Ji hooked up again, this time with Kim taking the shot, but it sailed wide.
DeLaBruere then sent in a bomb that was stopped, and Kim struck the ball wide again, and the frustration and the desperation were starting to mount.
"We certainly created tons of opportunities in the second half," said DeLaBruere.
With seven minutes left, the chances continued.
Quirion had another direct, this one from just on top of the circle, but Smith again went up and got the shot, leaving Marc to wonder what he had to do to get one past the West Rutland goal keeper.
"Everyone was hustling and we got off some nice shots. We could have scored, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be," said Quirion
There were less than two minutes remaining when Ji had the last go of it at the visitor's net.
He juked his way in, fired the ball, but Smith was on the ground to make the save.
The ball came loose for a second and there was hope, but the netminder recovered and grabbed the ball.
That would be it for UCA, as West Rutland now moves on to the second round.
"It was a terrific effort by both teams," said West Rutland coach Rick Hart. "Both groups were very evenly matched, but luckily we were able to get that one in on the breakaway."
This was one of the best games of the year for UCA.
They did all of the little things, and the big things too, to win a soccer a game, but the bounces just went the other way.
Maybe like Quirion said, it just wasn't meant to be.
In no way should the boys hang their head about the way this season ended.
If anything, their heads should be high in the air after going from a winless campaign in 2011 to hosting a first round play-off game in 2012.
Said DeLaBruere on the year as a whole, "I am so proud of these guys. We set some high expectations this year and we met every single one of them."
The team finished the season with a 6-6-3 record, including the play-offs.