The Jefferson City Jays accomplished a lot of what they wanted Saturday in the Class 4 soccer semifinals.
Except for the first time this season, they couldn't find the back of the net.
"We came out with a great game plan, which the boys executed," Jefferson City coach Scott Blake said after the Jays dropped a 2-0 decision to the St. Dominic Crusaders at Eddie Horn Field. "The boys played hard, I am super proud of them."
Jefferson City had the better of the play for much of the first half.
Bassil Ahmed of the Jays put a shot on goal in the opening :30, then Ethan Blake and Ahmed had a pair of good chances as the clock wound down to about 10 minutes to go in the half.
Jefferson City had a strong wind at its back in the first 40 minutes and the Jays used a series of long passes to get their scoring opportunities.
"When you look overall, I believe the team that had the wind at their back had the better of the game," Blake said.
It was the Crusaders who scored the pivotal first goal.
St. Dominic got a corner kick with a little less than eight minutes remaining in the half and had a shot go off the post, which Jefferson City then knocked over the end line, resulting in a second corner kick from the other side of the field.
This time, the Crusaders tallied the score off an own goal off the head of a Jays player.
"It was unfortunate, but you create your own luck at this point of the season," St. Dominic coach Greg Koeller said.
The Crusaders took that 1-0 lead into intermission.
"Any time you fall behind in a big game like this, it's hard to climb out," Blake said. "The message we had at halftime was that one unfortunate play does not define you, character comes from response."
St. Dominic had the wind at its back in the second half and used it to its advantage.
"The wind was a factor, when it's definitely going straight down the field," Koeller said.
Up by a goal, the Crusaders were patient and strong in controlling the pace of play.
"We just couldn't get the ball," Blake said. "They started knocking it around the park, which made it hard for us to play."
Nathan Grewe of the Crusaders made it 2-0 on a goal with a little less than four minutes remaining after a corner kick, the ninth for St. Dominic in the second half.
"We were controlling most of the play and we came through," Koeller said. "It was a good victory."
St. Dominic keeper Will Nicholson made four saves in the victory, the 14th shutout of the season for the Crusaders.
"He played outstanding, he's come up with big saves all year," Koeller said. "I can't think of anybody who has been more key to the season than he has."
Jefferson City had been averaging four goals per game.
"We were lacking one transition player in the attack today," Blake said. "We just couldn't get that one situation where we could have made things dangerous."
With the win, St. Dominic (23-1) advances to next Saturday's state championship game against Jackson (18-3) in Springfield. Jackson defeated Park Hill 2-1 in double overtime in its semifinal Saturday.
Jefferson City (25-3) set single-season records for wins, goals scored (108) and shutouts (19).
"Jefferson City had a great season and is a great team," Koeller said.
The Jays and Park Hill will share third place. Blake wishes he and his team had that game to prepare for.
"I feel like we would approach the third-place game ready to win it," he said.
The third-place finish is the best in program history. Jefferson City finished fourth in 1998 in its only other Final Four appearance.