AVON — As much as things change, some things stay the same — at least in West Shore Conference girls soccer. For the third straight year, the Bay Rockets are WSC champions following a 1-1 tie against host Avon on Wednesday night.
The tie put Bay’s record at 6-7-1 overall and 6-1 in the WSC. Avon finished as the conference runner-up with a 5-0-2 record in the WSC and 9-3-3 overall.
“We would have liked to get the win, but the tie gave us the conference championship,” said Bay coach Beth English. “Avon came out and gave us a tough game. But we are happy with the end result, which is the conference title.”
Avon got on the board in the second minute of action. A loose ball in the Bay box was kicked into the back of the net off the foot of Avon freshman Sammy Bender.
“The ball was loose, being bounced around down there and Sammy got her foot on the ball,” said Avon coach Brian Irwin. “Getting the first goal is always a good thing. This was the third or fourth time that we’ve jumped on the board first against Bay.”
Avon’s lead was short-lived. Seven minutes after the Eagles’ goal, the Rockets offense found an opening and capitalized on it.
Positioned 10 yards past midfield, senior Katie Kinkelaar fed the ball to Jamie Greene, who was streaking down the left side of the field. Greene, who was on crutches before the game due to a foot injury, took a couple of dribbles before shooting the ball past Avon goalkeeper Stephanie Fifolt for the score.
“She’s supposed to have a bad foot,” said English of Greene. “She’s been on crutches all day, but she showed up for us tonight. She played well for us and gave us a lift.”
With the score tied at 1-1, both teams settled into an alternating mixture of attacking offense and impenetrable defense. Although neither team was able to find the net again, Avon had a shot, two in fact, with 16:48 left to play in the game.
On a free kick from 48 yards out, the Eagles got the ball into a crowd in front of the Bay goal. Similar to a game of Pong, the first shot ricocheted off of Bay goalie Kristen DeWees, back into the crowd and then back toward the Bay goal only to be stopped by DeWees.
“I don’t even know how I stopped the second one,” said DeWees. “There were a lot of people down there and I was keeping my eye on the ball. I just extended and got to it.
“I probably would have been a lot busier back there tonight if I didn’t have a great defense playing in front of me, so I’m thankful for the job they do,” she added. “One of our goals this year was to win conference for the third year in a row. It’s great to be able to do it again, especially being a senior this year.”
Avon had one last shot as the final seconds ticked away. Bender had an opening, but DeWees stopped it for her eighth save of the night to secure the conference title.
“That was just a great game by her,” said English. “She had a couple of exceptional saves tonight. She is just an outstanding player as well as one of our leaders, one of our captains.”
Despite coming up short of the conference title, Avon has established itself as one of the premier teams in the WSC this season and into the near future. The Eagles are the top seed in their district for the upcoming state tournament and count four freshmen and one sophomore among its starters.
“In all honesty, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for us,” said Irwin. “We lost 10 seniors last year, but the girls played well and improved every game. We would have liked to have walked off the field as conference champions, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“However, this is a huge accomplishment for us to play Bay to a tie,” he added. “The girls have exceeded what I thought we could do this year and that’s exciting. We’re a young team and I think we have a great opportunity in the next few years to be a player in the conference.”
Bay 1, Avon 1
Goals: (B) Jamie Greene. (A) Sammy Bender.
Assists: (B) Katie Kinkelaar. (A) None.
Shots: Bay 13, Avon 13.
Shots on frame: Bay 6, Avon 10.
Saves: (EC) Kristen DeWees 8. (A) Stephanie Fifolt 5.
Corner kicks: Bay 3, Avon 1.
Goal kicks: Bay 3, Avon 5.
Offside: Bay 1, Avon 1.
Hand balls: Bay 3, Avon 0.
Other infractions: Bay 10, Avon 9.
Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or email@example.com.