AVON — Area boys soccer coaches have talked all season about how difficult the Division I district featuring seven Lorain County teams and three of Cuyahoga County’s top squads would be.
The last five days have proven them prophetic.
Avon — fresh off a penalty-kick victory over Westlake in the sectional final last Thursday — stormed to a three-goal halftime lead over Avon Lake before giving two back and narrowly escaping with a 3-2 win Monday night.
More photos below.
Now, the Eagles — who beat Avon Lake 1-0 on Oct. 15 in the teams’ regular-season finale — will play host to Amherst on Thursday for a berth in the Rocky River regional semifinals. The Comets, who lost to Avon 3-1 in August, beat Strongsville in double overtime Monday.
“Our expectations for these guys are high, and we keep proving we’re able to win,” Avon coach Chris Dore said. “But our goals are past the district, and we’re looking to put together 80 minutes of soccer. Then I’ll be completely happy.”
Dore gets it: No one wants to listen to a coach whose team is 17-0-1 nitpick. But the Eagles played very well in the first half, capitalizing on three set pieces taken by senior midfielder Brendan Cannon after a Shoremen foul.
In the seventh minute, Avon Lake’s attempted clearance of a Cannon free kick resulted in a pop-up inside the 6-yard box. Avon’s Ryan Poyle contested the jump ball with Avon Lake keeper Zac Strimbu, and the loose ball fell in front of the net to Ryan Repas, who easily found the net.
Only three minutes later, Cannon deftly found Poyle from about 50 yards out, and Poyle one-timed it past Strimbu for his 25th goal of the year. In the 33rd minute, Strimbu punched away a Cannon free kick — but Avon’s Kevin Manouchehri beat the Shoremen to the bouncing ball and beat Strimbu with a low left-footed shot.
“On free kicks we’re trying to get it to Poyle,” Cannon said. “He’s the biggest kid out there, and wins almost every ball in the air. We get a lot of goals on those. If he doesn’t score on them, it often bounces around and, as you saw tonight, someone else is there for an easy goal.”
But Avon Lake (10-5-3) found its footing in the second half and pressed Avon until the final whistle. Lefty Nick Stephenson got Avon Lake on the board in the 44th minute, gathering the ball in the right corner, dribbling once to the middle and beating Avon’s Austin Saini on a tough angle. Avon missed chances in the 47th and 48th minutes, as Poyle narrowly missed a one-on-one with Strimbu after an Avon Lake giveaway, and Cannon’s long shot was deflected just wide.
Avon Lake capitalized: Eric Mills’ 59th minute, left-footed shot from the edge of the 18-yard box bounced off the crossbar — and it also appeared to ricochet off the football crossbar, which rests just above the soccer goal — and bounced back into play. Avon Lake pressured an Avon defender, whose clearance attempt ended up in his own net, cutting the Eagles’ lead to 3-2.
But Avon Lake got no closer, despite a few late chances. Just after the goal with which Mills was credited, he pushed up the left sideline, crossing for Stephenson, whose touch caromed off an Avon defender to Alex Strimbu. Saini, though, made a difficult save on Strimbu’s point-blank shot to keep the lead intact. With five minutes left, Saini punched away a free kick by Avon Lake’s Joe Villari, and saved the rebound.
“We came out to play in the second half, but maybe got caught flat-footed on (Avon’s) set pieces,” said Avon Lake coach Dan Ogilvy, “Hats off to Avon — they are an opportunistic team. They got their chances and they buried them.
“If we would have had five more minutes, it could have been a tie game.”
The game was very physical, with 30 fouls and seven yellow cards issued.
Avon 3, Avon Lake 2
- GOALS: (AL) Nick Stephenson (44th), Eric Mills (59th); (A) Repas (7th), Ryan Poyle (10th), Kevin Manouchehri (33rd).
- ASSISTS: (A) Poyle, Cannon (2).
- SHOTS: Avon Lake 10, Avon 14.
- SHOTS ON GOAL: Avon Lake 5, Avon 6.
- SAVES: (AL) Zac Strimbu 3; (A) Austin Saini 3.
- CORNER KICKS: Avon Lake 5, Avon 4.
- GOAL KICKS: Avon Lake 10, Avon 5.
- OFFSIDE: Avon Lake 2, Avon 0.
- FOULS: Avon Lake 14, Avon 16.
- CARDS: (AL) Joe Villari, yellow (61st), Alex Yungvirt, yellow (73rd), Alex Strimbu (77th); (A) Manouchehri, yellow (27th), Cannon, yellow (59th), Jack Poyle, yellow, (80th), Cannon, yellow (80th).
- HALFTIME: Avon, 3-0.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or email@example.com.