Story By Mike Holzheimer
Photos and video by Larry Benne
Winning soccer seasons for the Bay boys varsity team are about as common as turkey and pumpkin pie on the dinner table at Thanksgiving.
The Rockets have many West Shore Conference titles and numerous trips to the postseason on their resume, including an appearance in the state semifinals last year. They kept their bid for a perfect season intact by defeating conference rival Avon Wednesday night, 2-1, at Bay's Memorial Stadium.
Bay, which improved its overall record to 6-0-4, ran its WSC record to a perfect 4-0 with this victory over the Eagles. Rocket head coach Bobby Dougherty, though, believed his team basically "survived" and "escaped" for the night.
"Avon outplayed us in the first half," noted the coach. "They really put the pressure on us by pushing the action at our end, while getting off many shots. They had a few of those attempts that could have easily gone their way in those first 40 minutes."
One of those near misses came when Avon's John DeMarco, who was celebrating his 18th birthday Wednesday night, nearly sent one in between the pipes at the 28:13 mark. But Seth Foerstner, Bay's junior goalie, was more than equal to the task by denying DeMarco's bid.
The visiting Eagles almost got one in again as the combination of Michael LeHoty and Daniel Minotti tried to sneak one in near the right post with 20:00 to go in the first half. Bay's defense, however, made it difficult with midfielder Brogan Macmillan and forward Dan Shank making Avon's path toward the goal a bit more challenging and Foerstner cleaning things up in front of the net again.
"In high school soccer, things aren't always pretty," said Avon head coach Chris Dore. "Sometimes you think you're there defensively, and the opposing team gets one past you. That's when it's frustrating for the team."
Avon's frustration turned into happiness and contentment for Bay, with the Rockets finally able to respond with a goal.
Dougherty's team was demonstrating solid teamwork with junior midfielder Mark Comienski cross passing the ball to teammate Jacob Sooy. Sooy fired one high off the top bar that found its way toward Bay junior forward Daniel Linhart.
Proving to be in the right place at the right time, Linhart rebounded Sooy's miss and kicked it into the net past Avon goalie Ian Long. That goal gave Bay the lead, 1-0, with 7:59 remaining before the intermission.
"We kind of preach that type of play in this program," said Dougherty. "The guys were attacking and Linhart knew what to do when the ball came his way."
Bay's defense certainly knew what to do in the closing minutes of the first half. Brogan Macmillan used some fancy footwork to take the ball away from Avon's Michael Smigel, who was closing in on a potential game-tying score.
Avon led on shots attempted, 10-8, but trailed after the first half, 1-0.
"We've been on the other end of games like this where we were outplaying the opponent at halftime," said Dougherty. "It was kind of weird to be watching our guys having things taken to them.
"Avon deserves the credit. They came out with intensity and pretty much played the same way in the second half. We were fortunate to get that second goal, and it proved to be the cushion we needed. Sometimes, you just take the win."
And, sometimes, you have to take the initiative to begin the second half of play. That's just what Bay did as freshman midfielder Mitchell Matakovich scored on a throw in from the corner with the second half just 3:56 old.
And, sometimes, the play on the field can become too aggressive, or too sloppy depending upon one's point of view. The officials began to pull yellow cards from their pockets with about as much regularity as eager shoppers flashing their credit cards inside a mall during the Christmas season.
Players from both Bay and Avon were hit with yellow cards for fouls, sending a few of the participants to the bench for selected minutes of inactivity.
As far as inactivity at the Avon offensive end, that was taken care of at the 10:30 mark as the Eagles' Smigel scored off of a free kick.
That would be the only time, though, Avon would threaten as Bay held on to earn its sixth win in 10 matches. Shots on goal for the second half were in favor of Bay, 8-7.
The Rockets will entertain Lake Catholic on Saturday at 3 p.m., while Avon, now 6-3-1 overall and 2-2 in the WSC, plays host to Normandy the same day at 7 p.m.
(You can follow Mike Holzheimer on Twitter @MikeHolzheimer. Follow the website @BeAFanatic)