The Avon Lake boys soccer team stood toe to toe with defending state champs St. Ignatius but ultimately fell short by a margin of 3-2.
The Shoremen understood their task was a difficult one: stopping the juggernaut Wildcats, ranked #1 in the state and fresh off a 6-0 dismantling of Copley, on their home turf and on their senior night no less. But for 54 minutes that is exactly what the Shoremen did.
The game started with the Wildcats setting the early tempo as the Shoremen looked to settle in. But once Avon Lake found their footing and started to play, the game set up as a more even affair, with both teams finding moments and half chances. St. Ignatius probably had the better chances early, but the stalwart back line of seniors Cullen Reutter, Sean Graney, sophomore Max Kramhoeller and junior Owen Wiley, led by an outstanding performance from junior Zach Glesius in net, kept them at bay.
In the 31st minute junior Andy Neipp scrambled for a loose ball near midfield and had the vision to pick out senior Liam Reutter streaking through between the Wildcat center and left back. His ball into space–a perfectly weighted pass for Reutter to stride on to–led to a wonder strike, as Reutter unleashed a laser from the right corner of the 18 and left the St. Ignatius keeper helpless as it found the back post side netting, making it 1-0. This was the first goal St. Ignatius had given up all season.
Avon Lake stood tall for the remaining minutes of the first half and carried their lead into the second frame.
St. Ignatius, as champions often do, regrouped for the second half, and came out guns firing. The Wildcats found their rhythm, getting extra numebrs in the middle of the field and using quick combinations and fluid movement off the ball to put tremendous pressure on the Shoremen defense. Glesius stepped up with several big saves to take away what looked like sure goals for the Wildcats as they poured it on.
The dam finally burst in the 54th minute, as a Wildcats winger got in on the left side of the box and fired a hard left footed shot from about 12 yards out that Glesius could only parry away. The ball lofted high up in the air and Ignatius were quicker to pounce, heading it into the open net from point blank range to make it 1-1.
In the 62nd minute they struck again, this time after a cross from the right side found an open Wildcat at the top of the 6 for a neatly finished volley to the right corner to make it 2-1.
St. Ignatius tallied their third and final goal a minute later. The Shoremen were fouled 25 yards from goal and senior Logan Allemeier hit a curving free kick around the 4 man wall that looked destined to find the bottom left corner, but the Wildcats’ keeper dove to his right and got a strong hand to the ball to punch it away. What ensued was a lightning fast counter, as St. Ignatius got numbers forward and connected quickly, before one of their senior captains chipped it over an onrushing Glesius and into the goal.
The Shoremen did not give up however, adding numbers to their attack to try and get back into the game. Shortly after stepping into a position higher up the field, Cullen Reutter flicked a header on for Liam Reutter to carry up the right flank before finding a touch pass behind the last St. Ignatius defender for senior Zach Ramsey to run on to. Ramsey calmly pushed it past the Wildcats’ keeper, who had charged off his line to intercept, and then buried a shot into the open net from a sharp angle and past 2 recovering defenders. This made it 3-2 Wildacts with under 4 to play.
St. Ignatius stymied the Shoremen for the final few minutes to hold on for the 3-2 victory.
“I’m very proud of the boys tonight,” said head coach Pete Klepek. “We were right there with the best team in the state, and we had our chances. They showed their class on the field, and so did we. We have a lot of great things to take away from this game and all still to play for this season.”
Ramsey’s goal was his team-leading 5th of the season, while Liam Reutter’s was his third. Neipp registered his first assist on the year and Liam Reutter his team-leading 3rd. With the loss, Avon Lake falls to 3-2-0 (3-1-0 SWC) on the season, while St. Ignatius improves to 3-0-0. The Shoremen have a quick turnaround before their next game, at home on Wednesday September 16th against SWC foe Amherst.