NORTH OLMSTED — It became the kind of match you’d expect when two old rivals square off in a Southwestern Conference soccer opener.
One side takes advantage of a rare scoring chance and the goal holds up in a low-scoring thriller.
That’s how it unfolded Wednesday night at Drive Morris Stadium.
Max Becker, North Olmsted’s slick junior midfielder, nailed an indirect free kick from 16 yards in the 28th minute and it was all the Eagles needed.
With Avon Lake applying heavy pressure the rest of the way, North Olmsted got stellar work from its defense and senior goalkeeper Alex Gajowski to improve to 2-1-1 (1-0 SWC) on the season.
Shoremen coach Matt DeCapua said Becker had to “thread the needle” to score.
“We know that Max Becker is a special player,” DeCapua said. “For whatever reason, we had a little breakdown in our wall and basically they threaded the needle, and that’s how they scored.”
“They (Avon Lake) actually split the wall weird,” he said. “There were guys, but they left a hole. I shot it through the hole, it was near-post and it went in.”
It was his fourth goal of the season.
Avon Lake (2-2-0, 0-1) outshot the Eagles 8-6 in the second half. In fact, the Shoremen appeared to score the equalizer in the 52nd minute. But the play was nullified when the Shoremen were whistled offside.
Despite the pressure Avon Lake applied after halftime, the Eagles’ Gajowski said he was truly worried only once.
“There was a missed communication between me and our center back and the ball got headed behind me,” Gajowski said.
North Olmsted coach Christian Marsh said Avon Lake will be a team to be reckoned with this season.
“That’s a team that’s gonna knock some teams off,” Marsh said. “They put you under a lot of pressure and they have some speed too. We were very lucky. They kept trying to play the ball in behind us and I think only twice they got it in where our keeper couldn’t come out and clean it up. Alex does a really good job with that.”
North Olmsted nearly scored in the second minute when freshman Matt Sanborn zinged a left-footer off Avon Lake’s left goalpost. The ball ricocheted toward the right post, but the Shoremen defense saved the day.
The Shoremen just missed a chance in the 75th minute when they sent a nice crossing pass across the mouth of the North Olmsted goal. But the defense was there to clear. Still, the Shoremen didn’t quit. They got off a final shot in the 80th minute, but it sailed high over the Eagles’ crossbar.
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North Olmsted 1, Avon Lake 0
GOALS: (NO) Max Becker (28th minute).
SAVES: (AL) Kane Adams 3; (NO) Alex Gajowski 8.
SHOTS: Avon Lake 8; North Olmsted 6.
SHOTS ON GOAL: Avon Lake 6; North Olmsted 3.
CORNER KICKS: Avon Lake 4; North Olmsted 2.
GOAL KICKS: Avon Lake 4; North Olmsted 16.
OFFSIDE: Avon Lake 1.
HANDBALLS: Avon Lake 2; North Olmsted 1.
FOULS: Avon Lake 6; North Olmsted 8.
HALF: North Olmsted, 1-0.