MURFREESBORO — There was a time when Dylan Keiner wasn't sure he'd get the chance to play a full season of high school soccer.
As Keiner tells it, it's been five years since he spent more than a month fully healthy.
A former wrestler as well at Father Ryan, Keiner suffered back injuries, two broken hips, pulled hamstrings and various other injuries keeping him from playing soccer.
Finally the healthiest he's been in awhile, Keiner helped lead the Irish to the Division II-AA championship game against Baylor on Thursday at Richard Siegel Park.
He scored a pair of goals and his shot in the penalty shootout, but his efforts weren't enough as the Irish lost 4-2 in the shootout for a 3-2 loss.
"At the end of the day, it's not about the amount of pain I can handle," Keiner said. "I'm more focused on what I can do to help my time. Every night when I'm sat up thinking about what I'm doing with my body, I've thought about this team and what they mean to me.
"That's given me the strength to keep going. In my final year to be able step up and help them out, there's nothing that means more to me."
Facing a team that beat them 5-2 in the first game of the season, Keiner got the Irish (9-5-6) off to a better start with a 1-0 lead with 14 minutes remaining in the first half. That lead didn't last though as Baylor scored the equalizer five minutes later off a corner kick.
Keiner struck again 11 minutes into the second half, beating a Baylor defender and sending a shot just wide of the keeper and into the back of the net.
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"We call him the Iron Man because it's amazing what he's put his body through just to be on the field," Father Ryan coach Robin Dieterich said. "He's such an inspiration to these guys. He tells them to keep grinding and shows them that everything will work out.
"He's a leader. That's for sure."
Withstanding relentless pressure from Baylor for the remainder of the half, the Irish finally cracked with 11 minutes to go as the Red Raiders scored the equalizer on a rebound.
Two scoreless overtime periods resulted in a penalty shootout. Both teams scored their first attempts, but the Irish missed two of their next three, with Keiner scoring their final shot of the season.
Baylor made three of its next four shots to claim the Division II-AA championship and its first state championship since 2018.
Following the game, Keiner gave one final impassioned speech to his teammates before finally letting his emotions get to him after five hard years.
"This team means everything to me," Keiner said. "These guys put a ton of work in making it to back-to-back championship games. We came up short in the end but we fought like dogs the entire way through.
"As a brotherhood, there's nothing more I could have asked of these guys."
Reach Joe Spears at email@example.com or 731-343-4923. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @joe_spears7.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Father Ryan soccer falls to Baylor in Division II-AA state final