Story by Brad Bournival
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Successful teams are often taught to have short-term memories. There are exceptions to the rule, however, and Avon used an out clause Saturday in its 3-2 road win over Strongsville at the Ehrnfelt Soccer Complex.
Playing the team that knocked them out in overtime of last season's Rocky River Division I Sectional final, the Eagles looked to 2013 for motivation. Seven starters were back from last year's squad that gave up a goal just before halftime, then lost in overtime to the Mustangs.
Fast forward to Saturday, and Avon was fueled by motivation in the road win over Strongsville.
'We wanted this one a lot," Eagles midfielder Will Sharer said. "It's definitely one we circled on our calendar. We wanted to get back at them for ending our season."
And get back Avon did, but it took everything the Eagles had to make sure they came out winners. Anthony Santell put the Mustangs up 1-0 with a header off a beautiful corner kick from Tim Hoffman just a little over seven minutes into the contest.
That only fueled the Avon fire as the Eagles scored three unanswered goals to go up 3-1 at the break.
The first came on a goal from Michael Smigel on a direct kick just outside the penalty box with 15:51 remaining. The second came off an indirect kick when Smigel found Sharer on the right with 4:45 left.
Goal No. 3 came when Daniel Minotti beat Strongsville keeper Reese Laurell one-on-one after a precision pass from Tony Telidis.
"Goal one was the free kick and the wall wasn't set properly," Mustangs coach Tobey Cook said. "Goal two, the ball comes into the box, two people don't win it, so there's a couple things there that you try to address.
"Goal three, we didn't get enough pressure on them, I'll give them that. We were losing it on the midfield. When you go up 1-0 and don't find a way, you get punished.
"It's like a broken record. We go down and have enough fight in us, but can't win it," he said.
The Eagles did, and the goal just 35 seconds before halftime by Minotti turned out to be the difference.
While two-goal leads at halftime are sometimes tricky, the punch just before intermission was exactly what Avon needed to dispel a team that has haunted it the last two seasons.
"You have to play, not just 40 minutes at a time, but the whole time," said Eagles coach Chris Dore, whose team moved to 2-0. "Especially when you play opponents that are good, you can't just squeak by. That goal was huge."
It was big because Strongsville, now 0-2, came out with a sense of urgency in the second half. Playing at a much faster pace and with more purpose than they did in the first 40 minutes, the Mustangs put the pressure on freshman keeper Dylan Morris.
Strongsville made it a game again when Jeremy Foust took a pass from Justin Nadzan with 21:32 remaining to bring it to one. Nadzan had a chance a few minutes later to tie it, but missed wide on a one-on-one with Morris.
"We try to get to the equalizer, but you get down too often and it's hard to fight back," Cook said.
"It was a fine second half, but we have to find a way to get leads and hold them. We fight, scrap and claw, but we miss that guy that's going to get 20 goals for us," he added.
The win was two-fold for Avon as it was able to snap a 0-2-1 string against the Mustangs that dates back to 2012. The victory could also pay dividends at the seeding meeting as a big win over a very good Strongsville team could help the Eagles when playoff brackets are determined.
"It drove us 1,000 times more," Smigel said. "This will be one of the biggest wins of the season, but we'll have bigger wins. This was a good win for the district playoffs."
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