Flyers outlast Statesmen on penalty kicks

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Flyers outlast Statesmen on penalty kicks in intense opener

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WEBSTER GROVES • The last time Webster Groves played a soccer game, it celebrated the program's first state championship.

This time, the Statesmen could only watch as another team celebrated on their home field.

The players from Lindbergh danced across Selma Field in jubilation and mobbed Michael Murphy, who ended Tuesday's tense season opener after 100 minutes of scoreless play and seven rounds of penalty kicks. The junior midfielder fired a shot off the hand of Webster Groves goalkeeper Will Sprick and into the upper-right corner of the net, lifting the Flyers to a 1-0 (6-5 PKs) win in his varsity debut.

“That was some real pressure,” Murphy said. “It felt great. I just knew I had to score.”

Neither team could do that until the shootout – or even come close, for that matter – and that was part of the plan for the visiting Flyers (1-0). Coach Mark Giesing started five defenders and said his team hoped to keep the Statesmen (0-1), who have a high-powered attack led by senior forward Sheriden Smith, from creating any scoring opportunities inside the 18-yard box.

Smith and Webster Groves, the defending Class 3 champion and the No. 2 team in the preseason rankings for large schools, didn't get many close-in looks and finished with one shot on goal. It was a bouncing attempt by Jordan Andrews in the first overtime period that was saved easily by Lindbergh goalie Michael Creek.

“They clogged up the middle and they really made it difficult for us to play,” Smith said. “They were physical, and they were always tight on us.”

In an at-times-chippy game that included 37 fouls, a yellow card given to Lindbergh's Michael McSkimming and an apparent left arm injury to fellow Flyers midfielder Patrick Schappert – who walked off the field late in the second half and left the premises in an ambulance shortly thereafter – Lindbergh didn't come any closer to scoring. The Flyers put minimal pressure on Sprick, but also withstood the pressure applied by Andrews, Smith and fellow Webster Groves attackers Antoine Givens, Mick Hanrahan and Cam Oliver.

Lindbergh's starting defenders were Sean Gordon, Cameron Killian, Sam Mosbach, Roland Ounanian and Steve Smith, and others rotated in to help keep the Statesmen at bay.

“They didn't really have any opportunities on goal, and I think that speaks a lot about how well our defense played today,” Creek said. “I think we've got some of the best defenders in Missouri.”

Webster Groves had one of the best teams in Missouri last year, but Tuesday's result against a Lindbergh team coming off a 10-13 season shouldn't be considered too surprising. The teams played an overtime game early last season on the Flyers' home field, with Smith's sudden-death goal giving the Statesmen a 1-0 win.