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Canty’s late heroics propel Tivy past New Braunfels

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Posted: Friday, January 4, 2019 11:09 pm

After watching his handiwork sail past the New Braunfels goalkeeper and into the back of the net, Stephen Canty coolly turned toward the sidelines, motioning for his Tivy teammates to accompany him on the pitch. He wanted them to help him celebrate the Antlers’ 2-1 penalty shoot-out victory over New Braunfels in the semifinals of the Antler Classic on Friday.

“For four years, (Canty) has been our rock,” Tivy coach Reece Zunker said. “Today really kind of spoke for itself. He won it for us.”

The Antlers’ goalkeeper, though, tried not to overdo the celebration. Never mind the fact that he had just registered four saves during penalty kicks or that he had just booted the game-sealing goal, he wanted to act like he had been in this situation before.

His teammates’ reaction to Canty’s late-game heroics was also subdued. They all sprinted to embrace him, but none of them seemed surprised that their two-time all-state goalkeeper — a SMU commit — had clinched the victory during penalty kicks.

“I had no doubt,” said Tivy senior Caleb Kissinger said after the game. “I knew 100 percent that he was confident. We were confident in him. He came out for those penalty kicks and did his thing, and we came out with a W.”

The Antlers (2-0) entered this season with lofty expectations, hoping to repeat as district champions and make another deep run in the playoffs. Their win over the Unicorns suggests they have an opportunity to accomplish both goals. They possess a stout backline and perhaps the overall best goalkeeper in Texas.

Kissinger — a first-team all state defender last season — teamed up with Frank Molina, Abel Mendoza and Jonathan Ellington to anchor Tivy’s backline throughout Friday’s match. Every time New Braunfels entered the attacking third, those defenders found a way to halt the Unicorns’ attack.

“(The backline) has done really well,” Kissinger said. “The one person who has really stood out to me is Jonathan. He came here new, and didn’t know where he is going to play, or if he was going to start. Once he got a shot, he really took off. He’s standing out so well and I’m glad he is on our team.”

Tivy, though, remains far from a finished product. The Antlers need to find more offense after graduating Alex Gutierrez, who set a school record for most single-season goals (34) last year. His absence was evident on Fridya, as the Antlers struggled establishing possession, with most of their scoring opportunities coming off counter attacks initiated by Tivy’s backline.

“These last two games have come down to our defense,” Canty said. “We certainly miss Alex, but we are going to find the guy who is going to put in goals for us. … Everybody is putting in the work, we just need that to transfer over to the field.”

Until that happens, the Antlers will have rely on Canty and their defense to win matches. On Friday, that proved to be a solid recipe for success. The Antlers will play El Paso Chapin today at 3 p.m. in the championship.

“We still have work to do tomorrow,” Canty said. “I am incredibly excited about this season. This off-season was probably the most important couple of months for me, and for the rest of the team as a unit going into the season. We put in harder work than in any of my previous years (at Tivy), so I think the most exciting thing is I know that everyone is ready to leave the tank on E.”

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