ELYRIA — Elyria’s struggling soccer team might have reached low ebb when it tied Southview a month ago.
A lot has changed since then.
Caught in a win-or-go-home crunch, Elyria blasted the Saints 5-0 on Tuesday in a Division I sectional tournament opener at Pioneer Field. The Pioneers got two goals each from seniors Rayshawn Camel and Chris Vidovich, and a goal and two assists from sophomore Timmy Jones.
Their reward is a sectional final date with second-seeded Westlake at 7 p.m. Saturday at Read Field. Westlake defeated Elyria in a district final last season.
Elyria’s earlier 3-3 tie with Southview was one of five the Pioneers recorded in going winless in their first 10 games. They finally broke the ice with a 3-1 non-conference victory at Amherst on Sept. 24. With Tuesday’s win, Elyria improved to 4-8-5.
“This keeps my season going,” said Jared Backs, the Pioneers’ senior goalkeeper, who posted his second shutout. “It means a lot to win our last game at home. Now we have Westlake. We’ll see if we can keep the momentum going from here.”
With strong defensive help from David Robinson, Austin Remo, Alex Smith and others, Backs had to make just three saves — none of them particularly difficult. The Saints got off only nine total shots and only three the second half when the Pioneers took over the game. None of the second-half shots was on goal.
“I’d rather have it that way than making a million saves,” Backs said. “I’d much rather stand there and watch my team take care of it. Our defense played a lot better today than they’ve been playing. They kept the ball in (the Saints’) half and kept it away from me.”
Camel scored the only goal Elyria needed after he took a pass from Jones in the 13th minute and put a shot on Southview keeper Francisco Bonilla. Bonilla couldn’t take control, however, and Camel kicked in the rebound. The Pioneers carried the 1-0 lead into halftime.
It took the Pioneers less than five minutes after the break to put the match out of reach. Jones, moving from right to left through the Southview defense, left-footed a bullet into the net for a 2-0 Elyria lead. Less than two minutes later, it became 3-0 when Vidovich took a crossing pass from Jones and scored with his left foot in the 46th minute.
With an assist by Jones, Camel nailed his second goal in the 55th minute, and Vidovich ended the scoring when he took a pass from Camel on the left flank and scored from 30 yards in the 61st minute.
“I felt like our heads were in the game today,” Vidovich said. “Everyone was focused. We came out here and did what we had to do.”
Elyria coach Greg Leininger said he’s pleased with his team’s improvement.
“These kids went pretty far last year, so they know how to win,” he said. “Now they’re getting their focus. It took them awhile, but this game was like redemption for these guys. They really wanted this one and hopefully it’s going help us get some more redemption (against Westlake) in our next game.”
Southview (4-10-3) lost Bonilla with an ankle injury in the final 20 minutes. He was replaced by Josh Morris.
“We had a very poor defensive performance today,” said Saints veteran coach Bill Bogan. “That was a big difference between today and the 3-3 tie. That and the second half of the season we’ve fought injuries. We played a pretty strong first half today, but their injuries started to catch up the second half.”
Elyria 5, Southview 0
GOALS: (E) Rayshawn Camel 2, Chris Vidovich 2, Timmy Jones. ASSISTS: (E) Jones 2, Camel. SHOTS: Southview 9, Elyria 24. SHOTS ON GOAL: Southview 3, Elyria 7. SAVES: (S) Francisco Bonilla 3, Josh Morris 1, (E) Jared Backs 3. CORNER KICKS: Southview 0, Elyria 8. GOAL KICKS: Southview 6, Elyria 4. OFFSIDE: Southview 0, Elyria 7. HAND BALLS: Southview 2, Elyria 0. OTHER INFRACTIONS: Southview 8, Elyria 11. CARDS: None.
HALFTIME: Elyria, 1-0.