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Oakville soccer finishes 'strong' despite loss to Panthers

As the minutes and seconds slowly ticked away on the scoreboard, an era was on its way to ending.

For the past several seasons, the boys' soccer team at Oakville Senior High School has ruled the District 7 tournament. The Tigers' dominance came to a close last Thursday evening with a 5-3 loss to their rivals, the Mehlville Panthers.

"They (Mehlville) certainly were ready," Oakville head coach Dave Robben told the Call. "It was one of those games that if anyone would have said that it would be 5-3, you would've been thought of as a lunatic."

The loss to Mehlville does not come as a surprise this season due to the fact that the Tigers have had their fair share of tough battles during the past three seasons with the Panthers. Last season, Oakville came away with a 1-0 win over Mehlville in the district championship game.

The Tigers (14-11) also met the Panthers in the 2001 district semifinal and clawed their way to a 1-0 overtime victory.

"They came out and put some pressure on us early," Robben said. "Mehlville kept us out of sync in terms of getting things started."

Oakville found itself down 4-0 with 15 minutes left in the second half of action until senior midfielder Brett Williams put the Tigers on the board with a goal. Williams' goal was the spark to an offensive outburst by the Tigers, according to Robben.

"Brett got us that first goal, which was huge for us," Robben said. "That was the spark that we needed to get things going."

The Tigers responded again with a goal by senior forward Kevin Marchi, which brought the score to 4-2.

But that was not enough to hold off the Panthers as they tacked on another goal before Oakville junior midfielder Kurt Vogelpohl brought the final score to 5-3.

"We finished strong with numerous chances," Robben said. "To their (Mehlville) credit, they came out strong and that third goal in the beginning of the second half put us on our heels. Their determination and resolve really took it to us in the first half of play."

The loss in the district tournament was the first for Oakville since its 3-0 loss to Vianney in the 1999 district championship game.

Robben was proud of the fact that his squad never gave in to Mehlville's offensive onslaught in the first 60 minutes of the game.

"I can't say enough about the fact that we ended up making a game out of it," said Robben.

"We finished strong with numerous chances."

The Tigers will lose eight seniors due to graduation this season in goalkeeper Kevin Chierek, defenders Andy Cooper, Jeremy Haegele and Mark Lee, midfielders Williams and Nick Palazzolo along with forwards Marchi and Gary Robidoux.

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