For most of the first half of last Wednesday’s match, it seemed Avon Lake’s boys soccer team was just one move away from breaking through.
On numerous occasions, the Shoremen entered the North Ridgeville zone and embarked on a promising play, only to be thwarted by a last-second effort by the defense or an errant pass or shot attempt. So when the breakthrough came off senior co-captain Spencer Chippi’s right foot in the 45th minute of the scoreless contest, his teammates finally breathed easy.
Chippi scored again in the 67th minute, fellow senior captain Drew Del Giudice added insurance in the 70th and the Shoremen came away with the 3-0 victory; their third in a row.
“We weren’t really playing our game in the first half,” Chippi said of the frustrating start. “We had a talk at halftime and once we started playing our game, it just kind of fell into our laps.”
After Chippi’s goal off a Zach Ramsey assist gave the lead to the Shoremen, he scored again after running past two Ranger defenders and converting off a pinpoint pass from sophomore Joel Tassinari, who was playing in his first varsity game. Del Giudice scored on a free-kick following a Ranger foul inside the box.
The Shoremen (3-2, 3-1 Southwestern Conference) were a load for the Rangers to handle all evening, dominating possession and using their offensive aggression to their advantage. The Rangers (3-3, 2-2 SWC) held strong defensively until Chippi found his opening, and weren’t able to catch up afterward.
Avon Lake outshot North Ridgeville 20-3 for the game, including a 9-2 advantage in shots on goal. The Rangers’ best chance to score came in the 75th minute when Willy Smith got open on the right side of the penalty box, rifling a shot that Shoremen keeper Stephen Jones caught for his lone save.
“That first goal was key, and then you could kind of see the boys relax, too,” Shoremen coach Pete Klepek said. “Sometimes it could be me (applying pressure) because I’m pushing them, pushing them, pushing them, but you could see them start to relax. And then our speed was totally different. We got that confidence and then started playing how I know we can.”
Weathering an injury bug that has cost him five key contributors and forced inexperienced players into varsity minutes, Rangers coach George Panagiotou was happy with his team’s overall performance.
Behind a defense that worked hard to slow the Shoremen’s near-constant attack, junior goalie Will Jedlicka made six saves.
“I think the defensive effort in both halves was very good,” Panagiotou said. “I take nothing away from Avon Lake; they’re a fantastic team. But we are suffering from some major injuries right now. We’ve got some young guys that are stepping up in kind of that next-man-up (mentality), and it’s a big learning curve. I’m extremely proud of my boys and their effort. We’re down three goals and still fighting and battling with 45 seconds left on the clock. I’m extremely pleased.”
Zach Glesius also made one save for the Shoremen, who have struggled to find early offense in each of their first five games. The first-half mirrored a 1-0 loss on the same field to Avon two weeks prior, a trend they hope to buck as the schedule continues.
They play at Amherst tonight at 7 p.m., then play host to Sylvania Southview Saturday at 4 p.m.
“We’ve been starting slow (all season), and that’s kind of been our main focus,” Chippi said. “I’m just happy to contribute to the team. I’m trying to do whatever I can to help us win.”
The Rangers will look to build some momentum this week with an SWC contest tonight at home against Berea-Midpark (7 p.m.) and a road game Saturday at Valley Forge (3 p.m.).
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