The Avon Eagles and the Avon Lake Shoremen aren’t going to give up much when they play.
Both teams finished 2018 season 14-3 records and only a game separated them at the top of the Southwestern Conference. The Eagles beat the Shoremen twice, including in a Division I District final last October. That victory continued a 12-year, 13-game unbeaten streak within a rivalry that has produced many close contests.
It was no different last Wednesday at Avon Lake’s Memorial Stadium.
On the strength of senior forward Aidan Lacko’s goal in the 45th minute, the Eagles won 1-0, improving to 3-0 (1-0 SWC) this season. Junior goalie Ryan Poling (six saves) along with a stout defense snuffed out Shoremen attacks with increased frequency as the game wore on.
“(Avon Lake’s) our rival, and they’re a really good team, so it was a hard-fought victory,” Lacko said.
The Eagles looked sluggish at the start. They were coming off a 7-0 victory over Normandy two days earlier and Avon Lake (0-2, 0-1) brought quick energy to outplay Avon at times during the first half. Each time a Shoremen attack worked deep into the Eagles’ zone, however, Avon Lake seemingly lacked just one pass to create scoring opportunities.
“We weren’t our best tonight, I don’t think there’s any question,” Eagles coach Chris Dore’ said. “Our energy levels were low. I don’t feel we came out with enough energy overall, but it’s good to get wins when you’re not at your best, and I feel we’ll get better over the course of the season.”
Both teams finished with six shots on goal, but the Shoremen attempted 23 shots to the Eagles’ nine. A combination of Poling’s play and shots that went wide were too much to overcome.
“The first 25 minutes, we didn’t play our game,” Shoremen coach Pete Klepek said. “I think we had such a big game (the week prior) against one of the top teams in the nation (Saint Ignatius), and we did so well against them; it was one of those ‘I was scared of a letdown’ games (tonight). I’m not saying it was, but after the first 25 minutes we settled in a bit, started playing our game. We adapted to them.”
In the second half, his team got going after the goal, and that’s a mental part of this game, he said.
“We graduated nine seniors, so there’s a lot of fresh guys out there,” he said. “We’re learning and it’s a process.”
The Eagles refocused in the second half and took the lead. Lacko made a run into the Shoremen zone, and freshman midfielder Sean Wilson sent a pass over two defenders to get an open look. His shot soared past a diving Stephen Jones (five saves) into the top-right corner of the net for his first score of the season.
“I made a run and (Wilson) played a fantastic ball through,” Lacko said. “I ran on to it because I wanted to score, because this was a big game against our rivals. And I wanted to beat them because it’s my senior year.”
The Shoremen continued to pursue. During the game’s final 25 minutes, the Eagles turned back numerous Shoremen advances. In the 68th minute, a header sailed just left of the goal and out of play. Two minutes later, the Shoremen were hit with an offsides on a promising run. In the 74th minute, a Spencer Chippi shot in traffic just in front of the net flew wide left. In the 78th minute, junior Logan Allemeier had an attempt stopped by Poling.
The Eagles improved to 11-0-2 in the past 13 meetings between the two rivals. It was the sixth time, including tournament play, that the result was decided by one goal. The most recent Shoremen victory was a 6-1 final in 2007.
“(It was a) pretty big win,” Poling said. “A 3-0 start is pretty good, I think. We really only have five starters coming back, and a lot of young players, and it’s great to get this experience in a rivalry game and get a win.”
Avon plays at 7 tonight at Berea-Midpark’s Roehm Athletic Complex. It has a week off before playing host to Midview Sept. 4. Avon Lake will play at 7 tonight at Westlake, then returns home for another SWC matchup against North Ridgeville Sept. 4 (7 p.m.).
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