AVON LAKE — Avon Lake needed a break.
Winners of just one game entering Monday’s Division I sectional opener against Elyria, the Shoregals just needed something to go right.
And boy did it: Avon Lake got on the board — a goal that proved to be the eventual game-winner — on a shot that the goal scorer thought ended up as a goal kick.
Instead, junior Kayla Kress’ teammates let her know that the ball indeed went in, and the Shoregals added another in the 54th minute, a little more conventionally, to win 2-0.
Avon Lake, which hadn’t made it past the first round the last four years, will play Magnificat on Thursday at Rocky River High School in a sectional final.
“I turned away and ran down the field to play defense,” a shy but still smiling Kress said. “I thought this was probably our best game of the season, as a team.”
Avon Lake had a myriad of chances throughout the first 20 minutes, and registered nine shots on goal in the first half, compared to two for Elyria.
The Shoregals also struggled to solve the Pioneers’ offside trap, but once they did, Molly Maloney had a couple left-footed shots go just wide early. Elyria goalie Jessica Gogan also turned away good chances from Emily Peepers, Karen Krouse, Kress and Lauren Anthony.
Yet for all her work, Gogan fell victim to a big turf bounce in the 26th minute. Kellie Norris, a Shoregals freshman, played well all night in the Avon Lake midfield, and corralled a ball near the home sideline. Her cross to the top of the 18-yard box landed on Kress’ foot, and she innocently one-timed a volley toward the net. The ball bounced over Gogan and into the net for a surprise first goal.
“We needed that,” Avon Lake coach Daegen Duvall said. “We thought Elyria would play more defensively, but they brought their defense way up and caught us in the trap. They were not intimidated and made it very difficult on us.”
The Pioneers (6-11) logged a couple solid chances in the first half, both off free kicks by Abbey Ramirez. Shoregal keeper Amy Crooks turned away the first, in the seventh minute, and Ramirez’s second, later in the half, went just over the bar.
Elyria had its best chance in the 47th minute in an effort to knot the score: Stephanie Petrov, who challenged the Shoregals back line all evening with speed along the flanks, beat a defender and crossed the ball for Ramirez, who just couldn’t quite reach the bounding ball in front of Crooks.
Avon Lake took advantage seven minutes later with the final score of the night. Inside the Pioneer penalty area, freshman Olivia Siko controlled the ball and sent a shot past Gogan to the lower left corner.
In all, Gogan — a first-year goalie as a senior — made 14 saves, many in the excellent category.
“Errors happen, and she played very well,” Elyria coach Venera Ilievski said. “She’s a girl who plays the game sharply, and with skill. She’s put the time in and really grown as a player. We graduated six of our top girls and throughout the season we’ve brought it together well as a team. I’m proud of the girls.”
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avon Lake 2, Elyria 0
GOALS: (AL) Kayla Kress (26th), Olivia Siko (54th).
ASSISTS: (AL) Kellie Norris.
SHOTS: Elyria 4, Avon Lake 24.
SHOTS ON GOAL: Elyria 3, Avon Lake 16.
SAVES: (E) Jessica Gogan 14; (AL) Amy Crooks 3.
CORNER KICKS: Elyria 1, Avon Lake 4.
GOAL KICKS: Elyria 10, Avon Lake 1.
OFFSIDE: Elyria 0, Avon Lake 9.
FOULS: Elyria 5, Avon Lake 10.
CARDS: (E) Abbey Ramirez (yellow, 57th); (AL) Clare Adams (yellow, 43rd), Emily Peterson (yellow, 63rd), bench (yellow, 70th).
HALFTIME: Avon Lake, 1-0.