AVON LAKE — Soccer is often referred to as “the beautiful game,” but sometimes it can also be to play just well enough to survive for another day.
For Avon Lake, Monday’s Division I sectional semifinal against North Ridgeville was one of those survival games.
The seventh-seeded Shoregals got two goals each from Allie Heschel and Marcy Allen to lead them to a 4-1 win over the 10th-seeded Rangers on a blustery night at Avon Lake Memorial Stadium.
“We never really looked like we were in control of that game,” Avon Lake coach Daegen Duvall said. “Hats off to North Ridgeville. They played a solid game. The wind was a factor but we really played a messy game. We played the ball in the air too much when maybe we should have kept it on the ground. I think some nerves were involved with that. I know the commitment is there, but if we want to beat Olmsted Falls, we might need to play with a little more composure.”
Avon Lake (10-6-1) advanced to Thursday’s sectional final, when it will face second-seeded Olmsted Falls — the Southwestern Conference champion.
Allen, a junior midfielder, scored an unassisted goal in the 13th minute on a ball in front of the goal on the near side of the net that she played perfectly across the field into the far corner. Her second goal came eight minutes later on a nice kick from 25 yards out that took advantage of the wind to sail just under the crossbar.
“It felt really good to give my team some confidence in the early part of the game,” Allen said. “It kinda felt like I set the tone and got everyone hyped up. It was nice to contribute.”
With the Shoregals going into the wind the in the second half, Heschel went to work on extending the lead.
In the 59th minute, Heschel scored off an assist by junior Tayleigh Price on a play that started with a free kick near midfield. Six minutes later, she scored again after chasing down on a ball on the near sideline and beating Rangers goalkeeper Alexis Klingelheber on a breakaway.
“It’s so nice to get this win, especially for the seniors, because this was our final game on our home field,” Heschel said. “We weren’t always able to do what we wanted to do tonight, but we did what we needed to do to get the win.”
North Ridgeville (3-11-2) got on the board in the 75th minute on a goal by Abby Bernhardt that was assisted by senior Riley Richardson.
First-year Rangers coach Chris Moore said this year’s senior class, led by Bowling Green commit Lauren Milner, changed the culture of the North Ridgeville program and set the team on a positive course for the future.
“The score doesn’t matter to us. This season was a win for us and our program,” he said. “Our culture changed this year. We have girls that care about each other, were willing to fight for each other and loved each other. To see these young women grow and become empowered, that’s why we coach. It started with our seniors. They had to buy into what we were doing and lead the way. They set a great example for all of the younger girls coming through the program.”
Avon Lake 4, North Ridgeville 1
Goals: NR - Abby Bernhardt (75th minute); AL - Marcy Allen (13th minute, 21st minute), Allie Heschel (59th minute, 65th minute)
Assists: NR - Riley Richardson; AL - Tayleigh Price
Goalkeepers: NR - Alexis Klingelherber (5 saves), Abby Morningstat (0 saves); AL - Emily Yarham (6 saves), Skylar Barnicle (0 saves)
Fouls: NR - 5; AL - 4
Corner kicks: NR - 3; AL - 3
Offsides: NR- 1; Al - 1
Halftime: Avon Lake, 2-0.