TULSA — Zach Loyd’s final high school soccer match in Oklahoma might have ended in a loss.
But, for the product of Verdigris High School, just being on the soccer pitch and being able to play the sport he loves was much more meaningful.
Loyd scored a goal and narrowly missed on several other chances as a rally by the East Boys fell short in a 6-5 setback to the West Boys in the Class 4A All-State Soccer matches on Thursday night at Union High School’s soccer field.
In the girls’ match, the East roared to an 8-0 halftime cushion en route to an easy 10-1 triumph against the West.
The 4A contests mark the first of three consecutive nights of all-state competition, sponsored for the 18th consecutive year by the Oklahoma Soccer Coaches Association.
The Class 5A matches will be contested on Friday while the Class 6A matches will be staged on Saturday. Girls’ play begins both nights at 6 o’clock followed by boys’ action at 8 at Union.
Loyd leaves on Monday for Chapel Hill, N.C., where he will begin summer school classes at the University of North Carolina. Loyd will be a scholarship player this fall for the Tar Heels, who were a national quarterfinalist in the NCAA soccer tournament a year ago and have been ranked as high as No. 2 nationally in preseason rankings.
But Loyd’s soccer future was somewhat in doubt earlier this year after an eye injury suffered during the high school basketball season forced the graceful midfielder to miss nearly half of this spring’s soccer season.
But the four-year Cardinal letterman and three-time all-conference selection recovered from his injury to finish the spring campaign and earn All-State honors.
“I love this game — every minute of it,” Loyd said.
“As I leave here, I will remember to never get a big head and to always remember friends and family.”
After the East fell into a 3-0 halftime hole to the West, Loyd helped spark a five-goal outburst for his squad in the second half.
After failing to connect on nine shots on goal, the fleet-flooted Cardinal standout converted on a penalty kick with 10:09 to play to pull the East within 5-3.
“We started off a little slow but things then began flowing better after halftime when we communicated better,” the two-time Verdigris captain said.
“I could have finished better in the final third (of the pitch). But this was extremely fun and a great way to go out.”
Following Loyd’s goal, Oologah’s Cody Seaba tallied on a rebound shot less than a minute later to make it a 5-4 contest.
But that is as close as the East would get.
“I was at the right place at the right time,” the two-year Mustang letterman, who plans to attend either Tulsa Community College or Oklahoma State University, said of his goal.
“This was good fun and a great atmosphere to play against such good players.”
Other area athletes in the boys’ match included Darrick Brunson of Oologah, Jared Chambers of Claremore Sequoyah and Nicholas Hipp of Verdigris.
Brunson, a four-year letterman and all-district pick, plans to attend and play soccer at Sterling (Kan.) College.
Chambers, who is Sequoyah’s career leader in scoring with 28 goals, will attend Northeastern State University on an athletic scholarship.
Hipp, a goalkeeper and defender for the Cardinals, plans to attend either TCC or Bacone College.
East Girls 10, West Girls 1: Six area athletes helped to lead the East, who were guided by first-year Verdigris head coach Stacy Risenhoover, to a one-sided victory.
Jessica Zingo of Oologah, Emily Ford of Verdigris, and Brandi Fuller of Claremore Sequoyah were among the seven East players to tally at least one goal.
Zingo, who tallied 23 goals and added 20 assists during four seasons for the Lady Mustangs, gave the East a 2-0 lead with her goal.
Ford, a standout defender for the Cardinals, put the East on top 5-0 with her goal from 20 yards.
“This was an honor to play All-State,” said Zingo, who will be a scholarship player for Arkansas State University this fall.
Adding to the occasion for Zingo was the fact that her high school coach, Pam Moeller, was honored at halftime by the OSCA for having surpassed 100 career wins.
Moeller, who has been at Oologah since 1989, has compiled 108 victories and has not had a losing season since 1992.
“That’s awesome. I didn’t even know about it (Moeller’s achievement). It’s very exciting,” Zingo said.
Fuller, who scored 14 goals and notched four assists this spring for Sequoyah, finished the East’s scoring on a tap in with a minute to play. Her goal was set up off an assist from Maegan Bushyhead of Verdigris.
“Maegan battled hard to get the ball,” Fuller said of the Cardinal defender, who garnered 13 goals and 15 assists in her prep career.
“I feel very privileged and thankful. Not a lot of people have this opportunity,” added Fuller who also contributed an assist during the East’s big first half.
Risenhoover had one final opportunity to be on the pitch with both Bushyhead, who is undecided on her choice of colleges, and Ford, who plans to attend the University of Oklahoma.
“Coaching them in one of their last high school games was very special,” Risenhoover said. “Both are great kids and great leaders.”
Other area players participating for the East included Chelsea Elam from Claremore Sequoyah and Cindy Phillips from Inola.
Elam, a four-year letterwinner, plans to attend the University of Central Oklahoma while Phillips will attend and play soccer at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
One other area player, Oologah’s Brittany Bunce, a team captain and all-district choice who plans to attend either Rogers State University or Northeastern State, was selected to the East squad but did not participate in the match.