To lose out on the Southwestern Conference championship without actually losing a match is a weird space to occupy. But that’s exactly where the Avon Eagles boys soccer team found itself one year ago.
The Eagles went 7-0-2 in SWC play, and didn’t lose a single match during the regular season on the way to a Division I regional berth. Yet, because arch rival Avon Lake earned one more SWC victory (8-1), the latter took home the trophy.
With that in mind, the Eagles (11-2-1, 7-0-1) made it a mission to win the SWC in 2020, and followed through Oct. 14 with a resounding 5-0 victory over visiting Amherst (7-6-2, 2-4-2) in both teams’ regular season finale. They wound up edging the Shoremen (7-1) by one point, 22-21, thanks to a 1-0 victory head-to-head Aug. 26.
“I feel like we kind of got robbed of it, but Avon Lake was a good team last year”, said Eagles senior Ethan Sier, who’s goal eight minutes into the second half put his team ahead 2-0. “But, I think we were much more deserving. This year, I think we came out with a vengeance and we proved that we wanted it more than any team in the conference.”
The clinching match was mostly played in the Comets’ half of the field, with the Eagles attacking regularly. For the game, they outshot the Comets 16-1.
“Our team, when we get going (offensively), it’s really something special to watch,” Sier said. “I think we combine balls well across the box and we create opportunities...We put the ball in the back of the net like we knew we needed to do.”
Senior Eli Kocsis put Avon ahead 1-0 in the 35th minute with a right-footed strike past Amherst goalie Kyle Dumais (11 saves), but the teams remained close through halftime. Then Sier scored early in the second half off a picturesque through-ball delivered by Sean Wilson, and the Eagles got rolling.
Junior Nathaniel Vakos rifled home a pair of goals from distance in the 54th and 70th minute, and junior Luke Lindon scored in the 61st. In the 76th, Eagles coach Chris Dore was able to sub out his starters for the final time and allow them to enjoy the accomplishment.
“We were really successful (this season), the back line through the midfield,” Vakos said. “We’ve usually had trouble scoring, but we picked that up, figured out our formation and lineup to get success.”
Comets coach Brett Thompson thought his team followed the game plan by taking a defense-first approach against an Eagles team that has displayed more offensive firepower than in years past. It worked for one half, but came apart in the second. The Comets attempted one shot on goal that was grabbed by Eagles goalie Ryan Poling.
“We’re a bit banged up and we’re down a few starters, and we gave it a good run,” Thompson said. “The experience of playing with Avon for that long, that was good for our kids. Obviously you don’t want to lose 5-0, but that’s a great team. They just break you down so fast, and that second goal turned into five like nothing.”
Now both teams will focus on the postseason. Avon, seeded third in its district, will host the winner of tonight’s sectional semifinal between No. 24 Elyria and No. 26 Berea-Midpark. That sectional final will take place this Saturday at 7 p.m. on the Joe Firment Stadium turf.
“We have to make sure all of our players are healthy. That’s the number one thing since we’ve played a lot of games in a short amount of time,” Dore’ said. “Our first opponent will be a team that we’re somewhat familiar with, teams that we played either this year or last year...It’s win or go home, and whatever team plays the best (will win). You can’t underestimate anybody, and we won’t be afraid of any opponent.”
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