AVON LAKE — It’s shaping up to be another entertaining year in Southwestern Conference boys soccer. And, for now, Amherst has the upper hand.
The Comets, having already shut out perennial SWC contender Westlake on Aug. 24, beat the upstart Shoremen 2-0 Wednesday night.
Amherst stands at 4-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play.
After a back-and-forth first half, Amherst took control three minutes into the second on a corner-kick header by Andrew Souders. The goal came after Amherst coach Brett Thompson removed Souders from the game late in the first half and encouraged Souders to get aggressive — “I told him he had another level,” Thompson said.
“He said I needed to do a little more,” said Souders, who notched his second goal of the season. “And I think I helped the team. We got the result we wanted. We practice (corner kicks) a lot on days before games, to get that rhythm down.”
Mark Ferber sent the corner into Souders, and later in the second half found Connor Klekota on a similar play; Klekota’s header sailed just over the bar. Klekota, bound for Notre Dame next fall, dominated much of the game at the top of Amherst’s attack. He also hit the post in the 71st minute. In the 74th, he cleaned up a mess in front of the Shoremen net, scoring when Avon Lake couldn’t clear a cross.
It was Klekota’s sixth goal of the young season, fifth in three SWC games.
Meanwhile, Avon Lake — which tied Westlake on Saturday night — will take solace in rebounding from a subpar regular season last year to defeat the top-seeded Comets in a Division I district semifinal.
“We’re built for the long haul,” said Avon Lake coach Dan Ogilvy, whose squad dropped to 2-1-2, 1-1-1 in the SWC. “We’d rather win in October and learn from these experiences in August and September. We knew this would be a battle, and we had to chase the game (after Amherst took the lead).”
Each team had spurts in the first half in which it controlled action. Amherst’s came early, with four chances in a 10-minute span: Josh Birkline had two of them, the first on a breakaway that Avon Lake goalie Zac Strimbu stopped. Seconds later, Strimbu acrobatically turned away Klekota.
In the 17th minute, Klekota neatly fed Birkline on a through ball, but as Strimbu left his line, Birkline’s chip shot went just above the bar. And in the 23rd minute, Souders’ drive hit off a Shoremen defender and fell to Klekota, who beat Strimbu — but was whistled offside. Strimbu had eight saves on 10 Amherst shots on goal.
Later, Avon Lake had two excellent chances in the 30th minute. The first was Joe Villari’s one-move-and-fire attempt from 30 yards, which was headed for the upper right corner before Amherst keeper Maximo Meggitt just tipped it aside. On the ensuing corner kick, the Shoremen played it short to Nick Stephenson, who beat Meggitt on a low liner — except a Comet defender still positioned at the near post from the corner kick knocked it out of danger.
“Avon Lake is one of the best teams we’ll play this year,” Thompson said. “They put a lot of pressure on you and create chances. We came up with some plays defensively; that’s the best I’ve seen the back four play.
“This is a big win for us.”
Amherst 2, Avon Lake 0
- GOALS: (A) Andrew Souders (43rd), Connor Klekota (74th).
- ASSISTS: (A) Mark Ferber.
- SHOTS: Amherst 12, Avon Lake 8.
- SHOTS ON GOAL: Amherst 10, Avon Lake 4.
- SAVES: (A) Maximo Meggitt 4, (AL) Zac Strimbu 8.
- CORNER KICKS: Amherst 2, Avon Lake 3.
- GOAL KICKS: Amherst 11, Avon Lake 9.
- OFFSIDE: Amherst 3, Avon Lake 0.
- FOULS: Amherst 3, Avon Lake 5.
- HALFTIME: 0-0.
- JUNIOR VARSITY: Avon Lake, 7-0.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or email@example.com.