William Graham wonders what might have been had the Alleman boys' soccer team finished one of its final two second-half scoring chances on Saturday.
"Definitely a different story," the Alleman senior midfielder said. "We're not talking the same way that we are now. We could have turned the game around."
Instead, the Pioneers walk away with the same feeling.
Following a season-long theme, Alleman failed to capitalize on two crucial scoring opportunities midway through the second half . Leaving two possible goals off the board sent the fourth-seeded Pioneers to a 3-1 loss against No. 2 Princeton in the Class 1A Alleman Regional championship match at McKenzie Field.
"It really stinks. It seems that we can never get a good bounce," Graham said. "It's the story of Alleman soccer. We really thought we had it."
Trailing 2-0 early in the second half, the Pioneers (9-12-2) converted their first scoring chance on the day when Angel Vargas redirected a corner kick into the net. With 35 minutes left in regulation, Alleman had the momentum and a manageable one-goal deficit.
The good vibes didn't last long.
Twice in the next 15 minutes, the Pioneers had their foot on the ball near the goal mouth and could not convert. Each time, Princeton keeper Miguel Austin made an initial point-blank save and the Pioneers could not gather the rebound. Both times, the Tigers (16-8) cleared the ball.
"The countless chances that we had, it's rough," said Alleman coach James Johannes, whose team lost to Princeton for the third time this season. "I don't think it's a lack of confidence — it's a lack of experience. Some of these guys don't find themselves in front of the net like that very often. We get cold feet sometimes, just a little nervous."
Austin stood strong when the pressure was there.
"He made some good stops," said Princeton assistant Rod Jaggers, coaching in the absence of Jason Bird.
Given two scoring chances in the first half, the Tigers did not flinch. Princeton converted two corner kicks into goals scored 21 minutes apart. Jacob Estrada broke a scoreless tie in the fourth minute when he settled a free ball on the left wing and buried a shot to the near post. In the 25th minute, Dylan Schaefer doubled the lead with a score from 10 yards out.
Both goals were scored off rebounds.
"That's how they score all their goals," Graham said. "Everything is rebound goals for them. We knew that coming in they were going to be strong off rebounds. We just had a few mental lapses."
The inability to overcome them led to this outcome.
"It's hard to put into words," Graham said. "Looking back at the chances we had, we were so close."
Today is Tuesday, Dec. 10, the 344th day of 2013. There are 21 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: We give "the government" the benefit of our circulation free of charge, for two advertisements for mules, horses and forage. 1888 -- 125 years ago: The official board of the First Methodist Church voted to build a new church. 1913 -- 100 years ago: W.A. Reid was elected commander of Siboney Bay Camp No. 8, United Spanish War Veterans. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Mrs. Blanche S. Osborne, of Rock Island, is the only woman in the city who is a member of the American Legion. 1963 -- 50 years ago: The Rocket Barbershop Chorus, under the direction of Howard Mesecher, will present a concert of barbershop songs at the December meeting of the Woman's Club of Moline at 2 Saturday afternoon in Scottish Rite Cathedral. 1988 -- 25 years ago: Helen A. Stone, of Moline, traded her organ's bench for a seat in the pew when she retired as church organist of Union Congregational Church, Moline, recently. She's been playing either piano or organ for the church for 61 years.