Mark Mettrick played like a man possessed yesterday, scoring eight goals to lead the Baltimore Bays to a 15-10 victory over the Tulsa Roughnecks.
But it wasn't enough to get the Bays into today's U.S. Interregional Soccer League championship game at Du Burns Arena.
The Bays also needed the Chattanooga Express to upset the streaking Atlanta Magic in the second game last night. That didn't come close to happening.
Atlanta won its 35th straight USISL game with an 11-3 romp over the Express, leaving the Bays to play in today's 2 p.m. consolation game against Tulsa.
Atlanta will meet Chattanooga at 3 p.m. for the USISL championship. Tickets are available at the door today.
The Magic finished the two days of preliminary-round play with a 2-0 record, Chattanooga and Baltimore are 1-1, and Tulsa is 0-2.
Chattanooga gained the title berth over Baltimore by virtue of its 8-6 victory over the Bays on Friday night at Du Burns Arena.
In all, a dreamlike season turned sour for the Bays (13-1) yesterday.
"The soccer gods were not on our side," said Bays general manager Ben Neil. "If we hit the post one time Friday night against Chattanooga, we hit it 100 times. I still can't believe we lost that game."
Neil and everybody connected with the Bays and the USISL had everything set up for a championship showdown today between No. 1 seed Baltimore and No. 2 seed Atlanta. Both teams were unbeaten in the regular season, and the Bays steamrollered their way through the league with a 174-42 margin in goals scored.
It would have been a perfect ending to the season.
But the wild-card Chattanooga Express sent the best-laid plans awry and left two out-of-town teams playing in today's final.
The failure of Baltimore to make the championship game left the league and the Bays open to some second guessing.
Why didn't the USISL play a round robin before the championship game?
Why didn't Bays coach Kevin Healey go with his top goalie, Scott Manning, in the first game against Chattanooga?
Did Baltimore overlook the Express because it was a wild-card team?
"We played our kind of game a day late," said Bays midfielder Billy Ronson, who had one goal and three assists yesterday.
Joe Layfield and Jeff Nattans each scored twice yesterday, Joe Koziol had one goal and two assists, and Joe Barger and Eric Riedlbauer each had two assists.
USISL commissioner Francisco Marcos said: "I believe the Bays already thought they were playing in Sunday's game before they went on the floor Friday night. We did everything we could to get an Atlanta-Baltimore final. I think they took Chattanooga for granted. We didn't play a round robin because the players thought three games in two days were too many."
Healey admitted he was thinking ahead to tomorrow when he made his decision on whom to play in the goal Friday.
"I wanted to go with Jason Wright one game, Scott one game and then decide between the two for the championship game," said the Bays coach. "It had nothing to do with saving Scott for Tulsa and going with Jason against the wild-card team. Jason was used to playing on Friday nights, and I just thought that Scott would be better off waiting a day to play."
No one will know how much the presence of Manning in the goal Friday night against Chattanooga might have changed things.
Tulsa 1 2 2 5 -- 10
Baltimore 2 2 4 7 -- 15