TWINSBURG — For the first 63 minutes of Wednesday’s Division III boys regional soccer semifinal, Elyria Catholic withstood the wind, the rain and the never-ending pressure of the Hawken attack.
But, finally, it just couldn’t take any more.
The Hawks scored twice in a span of 3:18 midway through the second half en route to a 2-0 win and a trip to the regional finals.
It was the second year in a row Hawken ended the Panthers’ season in the round of 16.
“Realistically, Hawken is just a good team, well-coached and their first touch was on and they did an excellent job of possessing the ball,” Elyria Catholic coach Attila Csiszar said.
The Panthers, who finish the season 10-8-1, were kept in the match by the excellent goalkeeping of junior Marty Conroy. Not only did Conroy make 12 saves, he also made diving stops on a number of Hawken centering passes before the Hawks could muster a shot.
“Marty did a great job of organizing the defense and he made a bunch of big saves today,” Csiszar said.
Hawken (15-1-4) finally broke through in the 64th minute with an unassisted goal by sophomore forward Patrick Connors. Three minutes later, senior captain Jacob Naft scored on a free kick from 35 yards away.
“It felt incredible to finally get a goal,” Connors said. “The entire first half we had shot after shot and we just weren’t finishing. We never got frustrated because we felt like we were on the brink and ready to score at all times.”
The Hawks best first-half scoring chance came in the 27th minute when senior defender Brian Drockton boomed a free kick from more than 40 yards out that sailed just above the crossbar.
After watching his team score 22 goals in its first three tournament games, Hawken coach Dani Giulvezan felt like his team should have played better against the Panthers.
“We didn’t have a very good game,” he said. “We didn’t get our combinations going. Our DNA really didn’t show today. Thankfully we were able to score two goals and close out the game and have a chance to go back to work tomorrow and try to fix things.”
If it sounds like Giulvezan was hard on his team, it’s probably because expectations are high for the Hawks, who have made 10 trips to the state tournament, including three in the last five years. Last yar they lost in the state championship.
Elyria Catholic was unable to put much pressure on the goal as Hawks goalkeeper Peter Labes only needed to make two saves to earn his third shutout in four matches in the postseason.
The Hawks, who were ranked No. 5 in the final state coaches poll, will face West Salem Northwestern, 5-0 winners over Garrettsville Garfield, in Saturday’s regional final.
Although the Panthers fell short of their ultimate goal, Csiszar is proud of all his team accomplished this season.
“The boys have worked so hard this season and I have seen so much growth over the past month,” he said. “People thought we couldn’t do this, couldn’t win a district championship, couldn’t hang with the big dogs, but these kids have proven time and time again that they have heart and they come out to play. I am already excited about next season.”
Elyria Catholic’s leading goal scorer, Liam O’Halloran, was slowed by an injury suffered early in the match that had him limping for most of the night. Still, he managed to get the Panthers’ best scoring chance in the 38th minute when he caught Labes out of the goal, but could not control the ball on the wet turf in time to get off a quality shot.
Hawken 2, Elyria Catholic 0
- Goals: H – Connors (64th minute), Naft (67th minute)
- Goalkeepers: EC – Conroy (12 saves); H – Labes (2 saves)
- Fouls: EC – 8; H – 10
- Corner kicks: EC – 3; H – 8
- Offsides: EC – 1
- Yellow Cards: H – Whiting (31st minute)
- Halftime: 0-0
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.