In an already dominant season, the Avon Eagles boys soccer team had been searching for an offense that could match their record.
Last Wednesday in a Southwestern Conference contest at North Ridgeville, they found one.
Powered by senior Aidan Lacko’s hat trick, the Eagles ran away with their fourth victory in a row, a 4-0 decision over the Rangers. Avon’s four goals tied for the second-highest single-game output this season, three shy of the team’s season-high of seven.
By comparison, the Eagles had scored five goals in their previous three games.
“We’ve been struggling to score goals,” Eagles coach Chris Dore’ said. “At the beginning of the year we were scoring some goals, but lately they’ve been getting frustrated with themselves with (scoring) just not coming naturally. It’s just nice to see. The movement off the ball was good and our energy going toward the goal was good.”
Junior midfielder Keegan Dawson also scored for the Eagles (10-0-2, 5-0-2 SWC), who took a 1-0 lead into halftime and erupted for three more scores in the second half. The shutout was the team’s fourth in a row, a product of a relentless defense that has carried it to an unbeaten record.
It was also Avon’s fourth straight victory over the Rangers (7-4-1, 3-3-1 SWC) in their head-to-head series.
“We just dominated that whole second half,” Lacko said. “We kept just playing it to our outside wings and attacking the back and then crossing it in, and just kept finishing with that offense.”
Lacko put the Eagles ahead in the fifth minute when he rifled a deep shot from near the visitors’ sideline nearly 30 yards out into the net. The Rangers regrouped to hold the Eagles scoreless until halftime, but came undone early in the second when Lacko’s header off a Dawson assist in the 42nd made it 2-0.
After Dawson’s shot from just outside the box in the 56th minute found the back of the net, Lacko sent another header past Rangers goalie Will Jedlicka (five saves) in the 58th for the four-goal lead.
Suddenly, a struggling offense had found itself. For the game, the Eagles held an 18-8 shot advantage, including 9-6 in shots on goal. They controlled possession for most of the second half as the Rangers struggled to keep up.
“We all played together (in the second half), so we all stepped up, the whole team, instead of one person stepping up,” Lacko said. “People slipped back (on defense) and we just all played together.”
The Rangers’ performance, especially in the final 40 minutes, felt uncharacteristic to coach George Panagiotou, who’d watched his team post a 4-0-1 record in its previous five games. The Avon defense, which has posted 10 shutouts in 12 games in front of goalie Ryan Poling (six saves), played a major part in that disruption.
“We failed to communicate (in the second half),” Panagiotou said. “We failed to execute specifically what we were supposed to do. Unfortunately, it became a little lackadaisical, and we became undisciplined, which is uncharacteristic of this group. After one goal cracked the seal in the second half, then the mentality and the mindset went down from there. And Avon did a fantastic job to continue to pour it on and not get comfortable.”
The SWC-leading Eagles are slated for a rare back-to-back on their schedule, and will play host to Olmsted Falls tonight at 7 before traveling to Elyria tomorrow for a 7 p.m. start. The Rangers will play host to Amherst tonight at 7, then won’t see competition again for a week.
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