Once again, the Panthers passed.
Elyria Catholic scored three unanswered goals to overcome an early deficit and defeat Western Reserve Academy 3-1.
The Panthers, who are tied for second in the latest Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association Division III state poll which was released Monday after the match, improved to 9-1-1. Western Reserve, which is fourth in Division III, fell to 6-3-0.
The Pioneers took a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute when Kurt Haller converted a penalty kick into the lower-right corner of the net past Panthers goalkeeper Marty Conroy after Ryan Medves was called for a penalty deep in the box.
From that moment on, Conroy, Medves and the rest of the Elyria Catholic team were nearly perfect in befuddling the high-powered Western Reserve offense.
“Ryan Medves did an outstanding job today, like he’s done all season,” Panthers coach Attila Csiszar said. “In any other program he would be a center midfielder. He has great vision. He holds the defense together and commands the back line. Marty made some big saves for us. He came out very positive today and has been a great leader on this team.”
The strong Elyria Catholic defense bought the offense enough time to find its footing and the Panthers tied the score at 1 in the 33rd minute.
Junior Liam O’Halloran took a pass from Gage Jarvis, who was dribbling free down the near sideline, and beat his defender to the middle of the penalty box, where he was able to fire a shot past goalkeeper Joe Blanda.
The Panthers took the lead in the 45th minute as junior midfielder Jeremy Kelling one-touched a loose ball with laser precision into the upper-right-hand corner of the goal form 20 yards away.
Jarvis added an insurance goal in the 75th minute after Michael Saddler set him up with a pass that floated over the top of the Western Reserve defense.
“It was like instinct,” Kelling said of his goal. “I don’t even know how it happened. As soon as it left my foot I knew it was a goal. I’ve had a lot of practice. I shoot in my yard every day, and today it finally paid off.”
The Pioneers defeated Elyria Catholic 5-2 last season, scoring three goals in the first five minutes of the match. Conroy thought that the memory of last year’s match was one of the reasons for EC’s slow start.
“I think we were timid because last year they smashed us,” he said. “After the first half, we knew we could beat this team. Soccer is more about the head. You have to have a good mental game and believe you can win and skill comes second.”
The senior goalkeeper also had high praise for the Pioneers.
“That is probably the best team we’ve faced this season,” he said. “We didn’t know too much about them but they are an exceptionally talented team. If you want to be the best team in the state you have to be able to beat the best team, that’s why this win is so important for us.”
Although Western Reserve Academy is not a member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association and is thus ineligible for the state tournament, they remain eligible to be ranked in the OSSCA poll.
“It’s good to get this victory against a quality opponent,” Csoszar said. “I’m very pleased with the boys today. In the second half we started to pack the defense in and that enabled us to play some longer balls to Gage and Liam to set up the counter attack.”
Western Reserve was playing its third state-ranked opponent in five days, but Pioneers coach Herb Haller, who was the captain of Indiana University’s 1988 national championship team, wasn’t about to make any excuses.
“Attila does a great job,” he said. “That is a tough team to play. We had our share of chances. It was just one of those days. On another day maybe the outcome is different but (Elyria Catholic) definitely deserved the win today.”
EC 3, WRA 1
GOALS: (EC) O’Halloran 33rd minute, Kelling 45th minute, Jarvis 76th minute; (WRA): Haller 8th minute.
ASSISTS: (EC) Jarvis, Saddler.
SAVES: (EC) Conroy 11; (WRA) Blanda 3.
SHOTS ON GOAL: EC 6, WRA 12.
CORNER KICKS: EC 2, WRA 9.
OFFSIDES: EC 1, WRA 1.
FOULS: EC 8, WRA 10.
YELLOW CARDS: (WRA) Campana 47th minute.