AMHERST — The guys in the red-and-white shirts dumped a big tub of ice water on Greg Leininger on Monday night and Elyria’s rookie soccer coach didn’t mind a bit.
It was in celebration of the Pioneers’ 3-1 non-conference victory over Amherst, their first of the season after five losses and five ties. Amherst dropped to 6-4-1.
“This was a fantastic win,” said Leininger, a former Elyria star. “Amherst played a solid 80-minute game and pushed us to the limit. A couple times I got a little nervous, thinking they were going to come back. They pushed us and our guys deserve this.”
Elyria got first-half goals from seniors Rayshawn Camel and Matt Schilke. Then when Amherst cut the margin to 2-1 early in the second half, Camel added the crusher in the 47th minute. The Pioneers packed in the defense and held on.
It took them a long time to score, but when they did they nailed two goals in less than two minutes just before the break. Camel moved in from the right side and fired a rocket into the left corner as Amherst goalkeeper Ted Kalo moved off his line in the 38th minute.
Schilke then put on a foot-skills clinic. He worked his way through and around the Comets’ defenders and right-footed a bullet into the left corner of the Amherst goal for a 2-0 Elyria lead at halftime.
“The goal was just hard-fought for,” he said. “I beat a couple guys, saw an opportunity and put the ball in the back of the net.”
Amherst scored quickly after the break, with sophomore Alex Obbey firing a shot off Elyria’s right goalpost, corralling the rebound and scoring into an empty net in the 44th minute. It looked as though the Comets were coming back.
“We’re a solid young team and when we came out, I thought we played pretty well,” said Amherst coach Brett Thompson. “But they have guys that just stepped up and made plays. When we came back with that goal, I thought it might be a different game. But that last one (Camel’s second) was really, really tough, because it changed the way we attacked.”
Less than three minutes after Obbey’s score, Camel found the ball on his foot deep in the Comets’ box and sent the crusher into the right corner for the final goal in the 47th minute.
“Now we need to keep focused, keep working hard and, hopefully, we’ll keep winning,” Camel said.
Elyria tightened the defense after that and played strong possession soccer thanks in part to the footwork of senior Chris Vidovich. Time and again, the Pioneers cleared to Vidovich near midfield and, working with Schilke, held possession while time ticked off the clock and the Pioneers got their offense together.
And they launched attacks several times in the last 11 minutes. Schilke shot just wide to the left in the 69th minute and Camel, with a pass from Vidovich, put a shot right on Kalo in the 71st minute.
“Basically, me and Matt (Schilke) have been playing together since we were little and we just try to work the ball around a lot,” said Vidovich. “This was a big victory for us and gets our confidence up a lot.”
Vidovich took a final shot in the 78th minute that forced Kalo to make his 11th and final save of the match.
Elyria 3, Amherst 1
GOALS: (E) Rayshawn Camel 2, Matt Schilke. (A) Alex Obbey.
SHOTS: Elyria 18, Amherst 15.
SHOTS ON TARGET: Elyria 11, Amherst 6.
SAVES: (E) Jared Backs 8, (A) Ted Kalo 11.
CORNER KICKS: Elyria 1, Amherst 3.
GOAL KICKS: Elyria 8, Amherst 8.
OFFSIDE: Elyria 3, Amherst 1.
HAND BALLS: Elyria 1, Amherst 0.
OTHER INFRACTIONS: Elyria 11, Amherst 6.
CARDS: (E) Camel yellow, 21st minute; coach Leininger yellow, 64th minute; (A) Obbey yellow, 76th minute.
HALFTIME: Elyria, 2-0.