STOVER — The Sacred Heart Gremlins won the Kaysinger Conference soccer tournament for the fourth time in four years under Travis Cooper, beating Green Ridge 5-0 in the championship game on Saturday.
The Gremlins outscored opponents 22-0 in the three games of the tournament. Sacred Heart has not allowed a goal in the Kaysinger Conference Tournament since Green Ridge scored one against them in 2013.
On Saturday, Sacred Heart made the most of set pieces, getting an 18th-minute goal off a free kick from near midfield that Sergio Justiniano tapped in. A Gremlin corner kick in the 54th minute led to an own-goal to make it 5-0.
“It’s one of those games, you come down here and you work on the things you need to work on,” Cooper said. “We had a lot of opportunities, but we had several that we didn’t finish. … Just come down and play our game and refine some things and continue on through the season.”
The Gremlins opened the game playing a 4-3-3 with Max Martin, Justiniano and Francisco Rojas at the front. They later transitioned to a 4-4-2 and the midfield maintained possession. At times, the Green Ridge defense was able to tackle the ball away from Gremlin strikers, only to see their clearing attempts turned back in by the Sacred Heart midfield.
“Midfielders were doing a good job of picking that ball up in the central area and keeping it on the attacking end for us,” Cooper said.
Sacred Heart kept the pressure on most of the game, holding a 14-1 edge in corner kicks. Green Ridge’s defense was able to turn away multiple Sacred Heart attempts at sending through-balls to the strikers.
“We were trying to fill up the middle and man-up as much as we could,” said Green Ridge coach Tracy Thomas. “They were getting a guy loose every now and then. They’ve got a lot of experience. They play year-round, we play three months.”
Sacred Heart opened the scoring in the seventh minute as Chance Spangler sent a centering pass in to Justiniano, who tapped it in.
Rojas scored his second of the game in the 23rd minute to make it 3-0.
Max Martin added the fourth goal in the 27th minute.
“They just gave me enough space to shoot it and I took the shot,” he said.
Sacred Heart had a 13-4 edge in shots on goal. The Gremlins cleared a centering attempt in the 11th minute from Jordan Dillon. In the 28th minute, Ben Barnes and Corbin Meyer made a run into the Sacred Heart end, which the Gremlin defense turned away. In the 34th minute, goalkeeper Sebastian Aguero stopped a Ryan Dove header off a Tigers’ corner kick.
For Green Ridge, the second-place finish is an improvement for a team that took fourth in last year’s Kaysinger tournament and struggled through a one-win season as recently as 2013.
“It’s not just this team, it’s the community,” Thomas said. “They want something for this community that hasn’t been done for 15 years. I’ve got to commend them. That’s a lot of heart to stay in a game. They didn’t quit, lot of admiration for that.”
Eric Ingles can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @Eric_Ingles