AVON — The Eagles made sure to give themselves plenty of opportunities to lock up the Southwestern Conference championship Wednesday evening.
It eventually paid off.
Avon relentlessly attacked Berea-Midpark to the tune of 18 shots, and Nicholas Soulas broke through with a goal in the final minutes of the first half to secure a 1-0 victory and a conference title.
“That was just a really good team goal, honestly,” Soulas said. “We started from the back, played it from the outside, moved it to the middle, Tyler (Muir) took it up, played me a really good through ball and it was an easy goal.”
The Eagles improved to
11-2-3 and remained undefeated in the SWC at 7-0-2, good enough to hold off rival Avon Lake for the crown. Berea-Midpark fell to 8-4-2 and 5-3-1.
“It means the world,” Soulas said. “We worked so hard this season and really wanted this. We were mad that we tied with Amherst, so this game we had to win. This was like a championship game, Berea-Midpark is a really good team.”
It was all Avon for the first 17 minutes, but despite possessing the ball on Berea-Midpark’s half of the field for the majority of that span, the Eagles had nothing to show for it.
Though they certainly came close.
None closer than Jon Clark’s shot from about 35 yards out on the right side. The ball sailed past the goalie and looked as if it was going right into the corner of the net, but it hit off the inside of the poll and darted across the box.
It’s probably about as close as Clark could have come to scoring without getting a goal.
A few minutes later, Clark placed a nice ball through two defenders that Soulas corralled in the middle of the box. Soulas beat his man and had a good look, but the shot sailed wide left of the goal.
The Titans answered with their first shot of the game — a free kick from about 40 yards out — it was one of four in the first half, and the only one on goal. Avon meanwhile rattled off 12 with seven on target. Soulas finally broke through on the 11th attempt.
Avon had a chance to add to its lead less than a minute later with a free kick off a hand ball about 33 yards from the goal, but the shot sailed wide right.
“I thought we did a pretty decent job of creating opportunities for us,” Avon coach Chris Dore said. “The goal we scored was a really good goal. All it takes is one goal, and at this point in the season we know that.”
Avon’s defense kept the Titans at bay for most of the second half, limiting them to just three shots — one on goal.
Things got interesting in the final minute, though, when Berea-Midpark’s Andrew Ruggiero broke free towards the box with what looked to be a last-ditch effort. The Eagles defense got back and broke up the play before he could get a shot off.
“I was holding my breath on that play,” Soulas said. “Luckily nobody made a really good play, but (Ruggiero) can make those kind of plays.”
The Titans had back-to-back throw-ins along Avon’s box in the last 20 seconds, but Avon’s defense eventually cleared the ball downfield to seal the win.
Avon 1, Berea-Midpark 0
GOALS: (A) Nicholas Soulas (36:50).
ASSISTS: (A) Tyler Muir (36:50).
SHOTS: Berea-Midpark 7, Avon 18.
SHOTS ON GOAL: Berea-Midpark 2, Avon 12.
SAVES: (B) Zachary Zeleznik 6; (A) Ryan Poling 2.
FOULS: Berea-Midpark 8, Avon 19.
YELLOW CARDS: Berea-Midpark 1, Avon 1.
CORNER KICKS: Berea-Midpark 0, Avon 4.
FREE KICKS: Berea-Midpark 18, Avon 7.
GOAL KICKS: Berea-Midpark 11, Avon 9.
HALFTIME: Avon, 1-0.
JUNIOR VARSITY: Avon, 2-1.