Winning a district championship is difficult. Try winning three in a row.
Avon believes it’s up to the task.
“It feels like we kind of have a target on our backs since we’ve won districts two years in a row,” senior Abby Delprincipe said. “We’ve worked hard in the offseason and we’re really ready for this season. For the seniors, it’s a big responsibility to help the team win three in a row.”
The Eagles’ championship run started with Karissa Kraszewski’s dramatic overtime goal for a 1-0 win over Magnificat in the 2016 title game. Last season, the Eagles again needed OT to defeat Westlake and return to regionals.
Each year the euphoria of a district championship win was followed by a loss in the regional semifinals, but this year the Eagles hope not only to return to regionals but take the next step.
“After winning districts the last two years, this year our goal really is to go further in the tournament,” said senior defender Rachel Hapanowicz. “This year we have to hit harder and be ready for anything.”
Avon coach Attlia Csiszar beefed up the Eagles’ already tough schedule with road games at Magnificat and Strongsville, which defeated Avon in the regional semifinals last year, as well as a scrimmage against perennial state power Walsh Jesuit to get the team ready for the level of competition it will face in the postseason.
“In order to become a top-tier program sometimes you have to do things outside the box,” Csiszar said. “You have to head the ball, you have to execute good slide tackles. You need to do the things that will set you apart. Playing a tougher schedule will acclimate the girls to higher levels of play.”
Kraszewski,a junior midfielder and the Eagles’ leading scorer last year, suffered a knee injury in the first half of last year’s regional semifinal loss but she’s back and ready to do big things this year.
“I had surgery in November, went through rehab and now I’m finally getting back into everything,” she said. “It’s finally coming along. I’m really excited for this season. We have a strong back line and the midfield and forwards are pretty strong too. I think we can really go far this year.”
Hapanowicz was able to share her first district championship with her sister Madeleine, who was a senior and a captain on the 2016 team. Hapanowicz said that as an underclassman it was always in the back of her mind to make sure she played her best for the seniors on the team. Now that it’s her senior year, she also wants to leave a legacy for future Eagles.
“The last two years it was always like we didn’t want to let the seniors down and we wanted to keep the momentum going,” Hapanowicz said. “Now that we’re seniors we don’t want to plateau. We want to keep the ball rolling.”
Csiszar, who coached three Elyria Catholic boys teams to district titles from 2012-14, came to Avon in 2017 in the middle of the district championship run. He and his staff have worked hard to maintain a championship culture.
“We have a high level of respect between players and coaches,” Csiszar said. “First and foremost we want them to have a good experience. We train them hard so when they step on the pitch they’re ready to play. This is a group of girls that are really mentally focused. It makes my job easier that we have such a good group.”
Delprincipe, a midfielder, has been a mainstay in the Avon lineup and if the Eagles are going to make it to regionals for the third year in a row they’re going to need another big year from the University of Cincinnati commit.
“The team is doing a good job of dealing with the higher expectations,” Delprincipe said. “We hold each other to high standards at practice and we really push each other hard. Everyone on this team is really close, its feels like we’re a family. The seniors are working hard to be leaders, everyone is having fun and we’re all working for a common goal.”