Three Special Olympics soccer teams -- one each from Lexington, Louisville and Northern Kentucky -- captured state championships on Saturday, Nov. 5, at the 2011 Special Olympics Kentucky State Soccer Tournament.
Held at Central Park in Florence in Northern Kentucky, the State Soccer Tournament was making it's solo debut after being a part of the annual State Summer Games in Richmond since the sports was made a part of the Special Olympics program. And in that first year, the Tournament produced some of the closest competition in Special Olympics Kentucky History.
Two of the championship games went into overtime and one went into the one-and-out phase of the penalty kick shootout before a gold medallist could be determined.
The 1A Division was the closest overall, with two of the four games going to overtime and three being decided by just one goal. In the semifinals, the Stewart Home School Panthers knocked off the Lexington Blue Thunder 1 by a 3-2 score to move into the championship game. In an all-Louisville semifinal, the Southeast Storm defeated the Pitt Kodiaks 3-0 to earn their berth in the final. Prior to the championship game, the Bronze Medal game went into overtime and a shootout before the Kodiaks emerged victorious. In the championship game, the Panthers and Storm deadlocked through regulation, overtime and the initial five penalty kicks. The Storm's Matt Hyer finally knocked in the winner to give Southeast the Gold Medal.
The B Blue Division also saw both the Bronze and Gold Medal games go into overtime before winners could be decided. In the semifinals, the Stewart Home School Kickers edged the Pitt Cubs 7-6 to reach the Gold Medal game, while on the other side of the bracket Lexington Blue Thunder 2 dominated the Stewart Home School Lions. The Lions turned it on in the Bronze Medal game, however. After playing three scoreless halves in the Tournament, the Lions netted four second half goals to force overtime. They added the only goal of the extra period to claim the Bronze. In the Gold Medal game, the Blue Thunder jumped out to a 4-3 halftime lead, only to see the Kickers come back and tie it 7-7 at the end of regulation. The Blue Thunder was too much in the overtime though, netting three goals to win 10-7.
Finally, in the B Red Division, a pair of Northern Kentucky teams emerged from the semifinals to play for a chance to keep one of the three championships in the region. The Northern Kentucky Eagles cruised past the Gateway Eagles in one semifinal, while the Northern Kentucky Crushers needed overtime to knock off the Louisville Cheetahs 5-4. The Gold Medal game was scoreless through the first half before both teams scored two in the second to go into overtime as well. In overtime, the Eagles were too much for the Crushers, who were playing their second overtime of the day, as their two goals were enough to hold off the Crushers 5-4.
From the Special Olympics Torch Bearer Newsletter.