Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Unbeaten. Unscored upon.
The Rocky River boys soccer team continued its hot start to the 2013 season Wednesday night in Avon. The Pirates played shutout defense, then got a late Trent Newby-to-Sutton Klodnick goal to come away with a 1-0 win over the Eagles at Avon Stadium.
With the win, Rocky River moved to 8-0-0 overall and 3-0 in the West Shore Conference. And in eight games, the Pirates and goalie Dominic Liva have yet to allow a goal.
Avon fell to 5-2-1 and 2-1 in the WSC after allowing the game's only goal with 10:24 remaining in the contest.
After an Avon foul, Pirate junior Trent Newby lined up the ball from 50 yards out. He sent a high liner toward the right post, where sophomore teammate Sutton Klodnick was waiting. Klodnick went up and headed the ball under the arm of Avon's senior goalie, Ian Long, and just inside the post for a 1-0 River lead.
"Yeah, we've done that before," said Newby with a smile after the game. "We practice those all the time, so that's a planned goal that we do.
"I saw the ball coming toward me, and I was just hoping the keeper wasn't going to come and hit me in the back," Klodnick said. "It was a perfect ball in. I was able to head it in down low and it went between the post and him. I think it hit his arm, but it was already in.
"We were coming in here against a very strong Avon team, but we knew we could pull it off," Newby said. "We have confidence in our team. We weren't going to let this being an away game throw us off at all.
"It felt like this was our home away from home tonight," he added.
The Pirates played like they were at home most of the night as they outshot their hosts 10-7 and decisively won the 50-50 battles for loose balls.
"Almost every game, we're talking about winning the 50-50 balls, about getting to the ball first" said River head coach Kevin Zerbey. "Because obviously, in soccer you can't do anything unless you have the ball.
"That's something we really work on, and that shows in our games. Our guys want to get to the ball first, have fun with it and put it in the net. They care, they want to get to the ball," he said.
Avon did produce five corner kicks, but Liva stepped up with aggressive play in the crease to go along with four saves.
One of those Eagle corners came in the 64th minute with the game still scoreless. Junior Michael Smigel sent the ball to within five yards of the goal, but Liva went high to knock away an Avon header to keep the home team off the board.
With River up 1-0, the Eagles had two more opportunities in the 73rd minute. Their first shot was slightly deflected, sending it high over the goal. On the ensuing corner kick, a low shot rolled wide left, keeping the River scoreless streak intact.
"I told the guys before the game that this was going to be our toughest test yet," said Zerbey, whose team already has wins against Westlake and Chagrin Falls this season.
"In our previous games, we've had a whole bunch of shots. Not all of them were on target, but we had lots and lots of opportunities. Tonight, not so many. But out guys kept working together and passed the test together."
Zerbey felt that was a big key to his team's unbeaten streak: playing together.
"Last year, this was not a together bunch. This year, we're not done jelling, but we're way better in that part of our game than we were at the end of last year.
"We'll continue to build, because now we have a big target on our backs. Monday, we host Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, and they beat us 6-1 last year at their place. It's the longest trip you can take going out there, so it was a long bus ride home.
"Our guys are going to be very motivated to beat them and put that memory to bed," he said.
Outside the Avon locker room, Eagles head coach Chris Dore said his team's performance was less than what he was expecting.
"No. Not even close," Dore said. "We're nowhere near where we want to be at this point in the season. Tonight showed that.
"The big thing for our players is to be more mentally focused for a game that two teams have to battle for. I realize we're going to get better, then we're going to take steps backwards during the course of the year. Tonight we took steps backwards.
"Now we basically have to start over," he added.
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