Since the beginning of the season, the Avon boys soccer team, though young with just three returning starters, had been special defensively.
As wins piled up, so did shutouts over baffled competition. Including Division I tournament play, the Eagles won 17 games, 14 coming in shutouts. All season, they allowed just four goals, one of the lowest marks in program history.
Then, in Wednesday’s Regional semifinal at Brunswick High School, that run came to an end against a national power in St. Ignatius, which used its experience and three first-half goals to pull out a 5-0 win.
It was the second straight year the Wildcats (18-0-2) ended the Eagles’ (17-1-2) season in a Regional semi and even came on the same field at Brunswick Auto Mart Stadium.
“A team like (Ignatius), you’ve got to keep the game as close as possible for as long as possible,” Eagles coach Chris Dore’ said. “They’re older, they start 11 seniors, and they have a ton of experience and they’re all terrific players.”
The Eagles hadn’t allowed a goal since a 2-1 win over Amherst Oct. 9. Avon gave up two to Wildcats senior Everett Shorey in the 16th and 19th minutes. With less than 10 seconds before halftime, senior Matthew McLaughlin’s backbreaking goal made it 3-0.
“I think it’s a totally different game (without the third goal),” Eagles senior Adam Kalvitz said. “We came out in the second half and played the way we wanted to play the entire game. We started the second half strong, but it’s hard to come back against an amazing team like that when you’re already down 3-0.”
St. Ignatius made it 4-0 in the 47th minute after a miscue by Nate Vakos, who accidentally gathered a cross attempt in front of his net and tapped it in for an own goal. In the 59th, junior Marko Rimac scored on a rebound past sophomore goalie Ryan Poling for the 5-0 lead.
The Eagles managed all three of their shots on goal in the second half, but weren’t able to beat Wildcats senior Peter Van Euwen, who saved all three. For the game, The Wildcats outshot the Eagles 18-9 (11-3 on net).
“I think what we saw tonight was two months of playing against some of the top teams in the country,” Wildcats coach Mike McLaughlin said. “That got us fine-tuned for what we were able to do tonight…Avon was incredible tonight and they had a great season. In a year to two years, they’re going to be doing to teams what we did tonight. That’s the truth.”
Despite coming up short, the Eagles laid a foundation that will hopefully carry over to the 2020 season. In addition to the stifling defense, the team’s 17 wins tied for the most since 2014 and was only one off of the program record of 18, set in 2011.
“This is the best defense I’ve ever played with,” said Poling, who made seven saves on the night. “Everybody just gave everything to each other, from forward all the way back to me. Our defense just stepped up this season and didn’t allow a lot of shots.”
The Wildcats will move on to play Milford (14-2-2) Saturday at a location and time yet to be determined.
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