Westlake passes first tournament test, tops Eagles
Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Last season in the Division I district title game, Avon came to Read Field and stunned a veteran Westlake squad with a 1-0 win over the Demons.
Wednesday night, two of the Demons’ more youthful players made sure history didn’t repeat itself.
Freshman Maya Bauer scored a first-half goal and sophomore Missy Murthy scored in the 58th minute to push Westlake past the visiting Eagles, 2-1, in a Rocky River Division I sectional title game.
The win moved the Southwestern Conference co-champions to 9-6-1 and into next week’s district tournament. Westlake used a direct approach all night against the Eagles, using the long ball to push the action into the Avon third and keep pressure on the visitors’ defense.
The tactic worked.
“We felt if we put a lot of pressure on their fullbacks that something good would happen from that,” admitted Westlake head coach Scott Jones.
“We didn’t think their fullbacks could play with our forwards,” Jones said. “But I’ll tell you what: They hung in there and fought pretty well. They kept themselves in the game. But we felt that was something we could exploit and take advantage of.”
Westlake’s first goal came in the 16th minute when Bauer ran toward a long ball from junior Gabby Gravino. The Westlake freshman beat Avon’s senior keeper Kayla Wysocki to the ball, made a move to her left near the top of the box and found the back of the net for her fifth goal of the season. That goal gave Wetlake a 1-0 lead with 24:18 left in the half.
Avon, however, managed to tie things up right before the half. That’s when senior defender Emilie Wetzig drilled a free kick from about 40 yards out that just glanced off the fingertips of Demon keeper Alexis Carpenter, who leaped high into the air to challenge the shot.
“It was just bad luck,” Jones said. “Alexis is one of the best goal keepers in Ohio, so that doesn’t happen very often. She’s about as steady as they get. But her teammates picked her up and she was pretty solid the rest of the game. I’m sure she’ll be solid the next game for us.”
With 1:04 left in the half, the Eagles had new life. But Carpenter and the Demons came out of the halftime break with a steady resolve and continued to play the ball deep into Avon territory.
With 22:30 remaining on the Read Field scoreboard clock, Murthy found herself with the ball on the right side just outside the box. She made a nice crossover move against the oncoming Wysocki, finished her approach and scored what proved to be the game winner. It was also the sophomore’s first goal of the season.
“It was nice beating Avon because they beat us last year in the district,” Murthy said. “I remember one of our seniors left us a note saying ‘district second place, don’t let this happen to you’ in our bags after last year’s game.
“And it was nice to get some revenge against them after losing to them in the regular season,” she added, referring to a 5-2 loss earlier this month.
“We’ve a very young team, but we’re coming together and playing hard,” Jones said. “We lost to Warren Holland (2-1) on Saturday, and they’re a state-ranked team. We were up 1-0 at the half and gave up two penalty kicks in the second half.
“We played pretty well against Avon Lake (6-1) to win the conference last week, so it’s coming together at the right time, I think,” he added.
“This was one of our more unorganized nights, just because of the style Westlake played,” said Avon first-year head coach Danie Schnaufer, whose team ended it’s season at 6-8-3.
“It’s really direct, and we kept getting caught up and getting ourselves stuck in some one-on-one situations. So at halftime, it was shear panic when they came off the field. It was kind of like the way we played the first half - very chaotic.
“In the second half, we started to figure it out and get it together. But we were tired. We were doing 50-yard sprints in the first half because of the way we were playing. We were trying to possess the ball a little bit more in the second half, but that didn’t work for us. We kept panicing and trying to kick the ball out,” she added.
Now the Demons move on to next week’s district semifinals. They will host the winner of Thursday afternoon’s Amherst-Midview game Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Read Field.
“We’ve been in the district finals the past five years,” Jones said. “The older kids have some of that experience, but the younger kids don’t. They were freshmen and sophomores on the team, maybe they dressed and got to sit there and watch.
“That experience was good for them, though, because then they understand what’s going to happen. We’ve got some freshmen doing that right now, and that’s going to pay dividends for us in the future,” he added.
In the top half of the district bracket, North Olmsted defeated Avon Lake 2-1 in a shootout Wednesday night. The Eagles advance to the district semis and meet the winner of Thursday night’s Magnificat-Olmsted Falls matchup.