There was a playoff atmosphere Wednesday evening when University High and Episcopal renewed their rivalry in boys soccer.
The teams hadn’t played since 2017 when they were district foes, but the competitive fire was still there for both. This time, behind two goals with less than 10 minutes to play, U-High turned back Episcopal 3-1 on the Knights' home field.
Chris Bottcher, the finals MVP of U-High’s run to the Division III title last season, scored from 20-yards out and right of the goal in the 74th minute to give the Cubs the lead for good. Zach Whisenand put the game out of reach with a goal in the 78th minute.
“It was just a really tough game. They have a lot of really good players,” Bottcher said. “It was hard to keep our cool because they used to be our rivals.”
Bottcher knew his shot in the 78th minute might be his team’s best chance to score before the game ended.
“When the ball came, I knew I had to keep it low and make sure I didn’t shank it because that was probably going to be our last opportunity,” Bottcher said. “I just hit it low and it went in.”
For Episcopal (8-4-2), the loss was another against a high-profile opponent for the Knights, who are No. 1 in the latest Division IV coaches poll. U-High (9-3-1), which is ranked second in Division III, got a key outing from senior goalkeeper Charlie McKenzie.
“We knew (Episcopal) had a lot of really good set pieces, a lot of dribbling balls to the goal and our goalkeeper stepped up huge,” U-High coach Chris Mitchell said. “He came out strong in the air on a lot of those balls. For us, it starts with our senior goalkeeper and he was fantastic in goal for us.”
U-High took a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute on Auggie Ohmstede’s goal. Episcopal’s Cade Capron tied the score five minutes into the second, and the teams battled on even terms for the next 29 minutes until Bottcher’s goal.
On the goal, Liam Moran passed to Bottcher outside the top of the penalty box, and he sent his kick into the left side of the net. Whisenand broke free left of the goal in the 78th minute, and put his kick into the left side of the net past Knights goalkeeper Anders Melton.
U-High took a 1-0 lead into halftime thanks to Ohmstede’s goal. Parker Bauder sent a shot into the box that Ohmstede redirected over Melton’s head for the score.
Episcopal’s goal came when Jett Turnley was working left of the goal. Capron took over and scored into the left side of the net to tie the game.
“U-High always has dangerous weapons,” Episcopal coach Kiran Booluck said. “All season I’ve heard they were good on the counter attack. They’re a very good team — they’re well-coached and well-trained.”