WESTLAKE — On the same field on the fourth Wednesday night of last October, Avon Lake’s unheralded girls upset Westlake 1-0 in a district soccer semifinal.
In a mirror-image 1-0 thriller, the Demons returned the favor Wednesday night. Two sophomores hooked up for a Westlake goal in the ninth minute, and the Demons made it hold up despite strong pressure by the Shoregals in the final 15 minutes.
“This was nice for the girls, especially our seniors because they’ve worked so hard,” said Demons coach Scott Jones. “We thought our season kind of got shortened in that game last year and I thought we had a chance to go pretty far last year. But this team is focused, they’ve worked very hard and they deserve everything they get right now.”
Westlake fans got a scare with less than 30 seconds left when Shoregals junior Trish Wladecki launched a 40-yard rocket that barely cleared the net. Had the shot — a free kick — been lower by a matter of inches, it would have cleared the hands of Westlake keeper Krysta Falasca and gone under the crossbar.
It was the ninth straight victory for Westlake (14-2-3). The Demons advance to a Division I district final at 3 p.m. Saturday against Magnificat, who defeated North Olmsted in a shootout Wednesday night.
For Avon Lake (9-7-3), it was the second loss to its old and intense Southwestern Conference rival this season. The Demons won their SWC matchup 3-1. After knocking off Westlake last year, the Shoregals went on to win their first district soccer title. They eventually bowed to Toledo St. Ursula in an Ashland regional semifinal.
The shot that won for Westlake on Wednesday belonged to sophomore forward A.J. Suever, who scored into the right corner after a crossing pass from Natalie Bechtel. Bechtel, a midfielder, dribbled through a couple of Shoregals defenders on the left flank before making the nearly perfect pass to Suever right in front of the Avon Lake net.
“Natalie dribbled through a bunch of people, played a perfect ball in the box and I just kicked it in,” Suever said. “This means everything to us. We wanted our seniors to be able to keep playing.”
“I got the ball long the left side,” said Bechtel. “I had two (defenders) on me, then I saw A.J. and I just kicked it to her.”
With Demons junior Beth Maroney marking Wladecki — one of the Shoregals’ top offensive threats — and an otherwise strong defensive job, Westlake limited the Shoregals to just a dozen shots — only three on goal and only one on goal in the second half.
They had a chance when senior Sammy Harris twice forced Falasca to make saves, once in the second minute and the other 23 minutes later. Emily Kundtz had a good opportunity in the 49th minute, but Falasca came off her line to make a nice save.
Likewise, the Demons had some chances with a half-dozen shots on goal. Shoregals keeper Bridget Lyons stopped shots by Karyn Pendergast and Lauren Acker in the first half, and Bechtel just missed with a high shot three minutes before the break. Lyons came up big several times in the second half, notably when she made saves on bang-bang left-footed shots by Bechtel in the 66th minute.
“I think we had as many chances as they did,” said Avon Lake coach Caleb Reutter. “We had a couple where it was one-on-one with the goalie and you have to give credit to (Falasca) for saving those shots. If she doesn’t come out and stop them, we tie it up.”
Westlake 1, Avon Lake 0
GOALS: (W) A. J. Suever, 9th minute.
ASSISTS: (W) Natalie Bechtel.
SHOTS: Avon Lake 12, Westlake 15.
SHOTS ON GOAL: Avon Lake 3, Westlake 6.
SAVES: (AL) Bridget Lyons 6; (W) Krysta Falasca 4.
CORNER KICKS: Avon Lake 1, Westlake 2.
GOAL KICKS: Avon Lake 11, Westlake 3.
OFFSIDE: Avon Lake 1, Westlake 0.
HAND BALLS: None.
OTHER INFRACTIONS: Avon Lake 11, Westlake 16.
CARDS: (AL) Taylor Miller yellow, 48th minute.
HALFTIME: Westlake, 1-0.