The Dover Cup, and all the bragging rights that go along with it, once again belongs to the Bay Rockets and the West Shore Conference.
Behind a pair of first half goals from seniors Matt Toth and Ben Tepper, as well as some great work on the defensive side of the ball, Bay was able to take back the Dover Cup from Westlake in the battle of conference champions, 2-1.
The Rockets, who currently wear the WSC crown, improved to 9-4-3 on the season, while the Demons, champions of the Southwestern Conference, fell to 11-3-2. Both teams head into tournament play next week with high expectations.
“We set up the last two games as the conference championship (a 2-0 win over Rocky River) and a must win tonight to win back the cup. That’s what you want going into the playoffs,” said Bay head coach Bobby Dougherty.
“Westlake held the cup, and to get it back we had to beat them. We couldn’t tie, or else they keep it. So it was a good win for us.”
In a match that resembled a friendly meeting more than a showdown of two west side powers, the Rockets outshot the Demons on the night, 17-9.
Toth put Bay on the board at the 21:40 mark of the first half, taking the ball 20 yards out and firing a shot that skid on the wet turf and to the right of Westlake senior goalie Jamie Lackner.
Six minutes later, Tepper drove home the game winner from 10 yards out on the left side of the box. Toth set up the goal by crossing the ball through the box, and after a Demon defender tried to clear it, Tepper ripped a low line drive into the left side of the net.
The Rockets may have been a little too comfortable with the two goal lead at the half, but Daugherty wasn’t.
“In the first half, I thought we played really well, but in the second we sort of wanted to bunker in and settle with the two-goal lead,” Daugherty said. “And that’s a horrible lead because when you give them one, it’s a one goal lead and things turn into chaos.”
Westlake proved the coach right, scoring on a great play from junior Adam Thompson with 26:34 to play in the match. Thompson made an aggressive move on Bay defender Cole Jacobs, who was attempting to clear the ball out of the Rockets end, and broke away with it.
Stealing the ball 40 yards from the goal, Thomson settled it and fired off a shot from 25 yards out on the right side. The ball passed Bay senior goalie Koray Sayir and drew the Demons to within a single score, 2-1.
It was a great play by Thompson, but a ‘too little, too late’ goal in the mind of Westlake coach Mike Besu.
“That was a nice effort, but we needed that kind of effort in the first half,” Besu said. “We missed a couple of open goals in the post in the first half, and if you take those, it’s 3-0, us. But hey, it is what it is. They (Bay) put their chances away, and they won the game.
“The ball just didn’t bounce our way,” continued Besu, who down-played the loss.
“I don’t think the kids, right from the beginning of the game, were mentally ready. No disrespect to Bay, but this game didn’t mean that much to us. We came to honor the game, but we played not to get anyone hurt and I made some substitutions because I didn’t know who (scouts from other teams) may be in the stands. We have better things to do in the playoffs.”
And in a different way, Dougherty agreed.
“It’s a rivalry, and it’s not. It was a clean, hard played game, and that’s what you really want to see,” he said.
“Mike (Besu) coached my wife when she played soccer at Westlake, and now she moved across the tracks, so that’s a big deal,” Dougherty joked.
“Sean Egan (Bay assistant coach) used to coach at Westlake, and he played at Bay, and Doug Kuns (Westlake assistant) plays with me on a mens league team. It’s fun for the bragging rights, but in a few months at the coaches convention, we’ll all go out to dinner together and laugh,” he added,
Bay, the top seed in the Rocky River Division II tournament, awaits the winner of the Brookside-Benedictine match. Westlake, the second seed in the Rocky River Division I tourney, will open against SWC foe Olmsted Falls.
“All this really was is a preparation for the playoffs. We set up our schedule for a match like this at the end,” Dougherty said. “They’re the conference champs of the Southwestern, we won the West Shore, and it’s a great game for both of us to get ready for what is to come starting next week.”