Story by Jim Horvath
Photos by David Richard Photography
For 88 minutes, the two teams battled.
With the Rocky River Division I District title on the line, Avon Lake and Westlake had fought to a scoreless tie. The Shoremen, winners of 10 straight games, had nearly pulled it out early in the 80th minute, but a Nathan Greenberg save sent the game into overtime.
In the 89th minute, however, the Westlake keeper could not come up with another against Avon Lake senior Alex Voloshen.
Voloshen, with the ball landing squarely in front of him in the box, ripped a high shot that glanced off Greenberg's fingers and into the back of the net to give the Shoremen a 1-0 win Saturday night at wet and windy Memorial Stadium.
"I saw the opening, kept my hips square and just placed it in," said a jubilant Voloshen as he celebrated with his teammates near the east goal.
"The ball popped off one of our guys, and it came out and was sitting there for me, right on a platter. Soccer is like that, though. It'll go back and forth between two teams forever, but all of a sudden the tide can turn.
"When I hit it and I saw the ball hit his hands, my heart sank. Then it slipped in, but even then I wasn't sure it went in until I saw it hit the side netting," he said.
"We're so excited for these kids," said first-year Shoremen head coach Matt DeCapua.
"This is my first year with this program, and I'll be honest with you: Some people told me that Avon Lake didn't have a lot of talent. That motivated me even more to come out here and make these kids believers. We started a little bit slow to start the season, but now these kids are believers.
"We have 11 straight wins and the first district championship in 15 years here. We got a big win over Westlake, who we haven't beat since 2005. These kids put so much work in, and I'm just so appreciative of their effort," he said.
Avon Lake will play Medina, a 2-1 winner over Copley in the Brunswick District championship game. That game will be played Wednesday at Nordonia, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.
The Shoremen dodged a few bullets along the way.
Westlake had a number of scoring opportunities in the first half, with a number of shots going high or wide. Avon Lake goalie Kane Adams had some big saves, and turned in a big play late in the first half. Westlake junior Omar Salem had advanced the ball into the box for a point-blank shot, but Adams grabbed the ball just as it came off Salem's foot to keep the contest scoreless.
Then in the 42nd minute, Westlake senior Dakota Swisher got off a shot that zipped past Adams, who had come out to cut down the angle. With the ball mere inches from crossing the goal line, junior defender Bailey Stephenson sped in to knock the ball away.
Avon Lake, despite a sudden dose of heavy rain and wind, turned up the heat offensively in the final 25 minutes of the second half. Greenberg came up with another big save in the 71st minute, diving to his right. His save in the final minute of regulation came off a corner kick from Shoremen senior Ian Stewart.
"They were the better team tonight," said Westlake head coach Mike Besu. "We have nobody to blame but ourselves.
"They capitalized on the opportunity they had. Even with the few mistakes we made, we still had our chances. We just couldn't finish," he said.
DeCapua acknowledged his Southwestern Conference rivals, then turned his attention to what lied ahead.
"I tip my hat to Westlake. They came out and played a very tough game," he said. "The conditions changed a little bit late in the game, and fortunately Alex was able to score a goal there in the first overtime. He's our senior captain, and a fantastic young man. He deserved to have that winning goal for us."
"We're not done yet. This is fantastic, and it's a great win. This is another step in our process, and it was one of our goals this year, to be district champions. I knew we had the quality kids to do it. It was getting them to believe.
"We're looking forward to playing Medina. We're looking forward to the challenge," he added.
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