CUYAHOGA FALLS — A square soccer post registers four inches across.
That was how close Buckeye’s boys soccer team came Monday from deadlocking the fifth-ranked team in the Division II Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches poll.
Instead, the Bucks fell 1-0 to Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in a fantastic non-league match that had all the feelings of a late-October playoff game.
“It shows we can pretty much hang with anybody we come across,” Buckeye midfielder Tyler Miranda said. “These guys are fifth-ranked in the state. We’ve come a long way this season. It’s little things like that. It’s anticipating it coming off the bar.”
Noah Irwin’s shot nicked off Buckeye goalkeeper Zach Ridler’s fingers, hit the left post and bounced to Braydon Lazzara with 13:51 remaining in the first half.
Had the post been rounded like many around Northeast Ohio, the argument for 0-0 could have been made stronger.
“We might not always have the most talented team, but we have the most grit,” Ridler said. “That showed tonight. I remember freshman year we lost to this team 3-0, so it was nice to come out and have a better result. I think we just have to step it up offensively. This game was kind of spent in our defensive third.”
Anticipation seemed to be the name of the game, as the Royals (11-3) won almost every 50/50 ball.
On the occasion CVCA keeper Isiah Slabaugh sent the ball to the middle of the artificial turf, it found a blue and white jersey.
That left a relatively easy night for Royals defenders Chris DeLucia, Robert Orihel, Tim Prather, Jackson Ianetta and Slabaugh, who faced three first-half shots on goal but none after intermission.
“They were really good at anticipating where the ball was going to go,” Miranda said. “They were really quick right out of the box with their first two or three steps. They were really good at judging the ball. Even the balls they took on the rise and in the air left them really quick in the middle.”
That middle opened for CVCA, as the Royals were able to keep the Bucks (10-3-1) on their heels by getting to the ball and distributing it outside.
That kept Buckeye defenders Shane Capela, Mason Clutter, Clay Gunkelman and Adam Matras from pressuring.
“We lost our focus in the middle a little bit, and teams like that are going to outstep you,” Bucks coach Joe Serio said. “They’re going to make you pay for it. We didn’t have enough in the end, but what a great game, what great competition.
“It’s a good look for the teams we’re going to face in the tournament. That was a good, physical game for us — a good, fast-paced game. I like what we did on offense and defense. We just didn’t have the quality to finish.
“If we play a little bit more with our heads up and get the ball off our feet, it forces their defense to shift a little bit and make them uncomfortable. They were just really quick on the ball and did a really good job of cutting off angles. They’re just a quality team.”
- Yaseen Belkadi, Trenton Camper, Chance Davenport and Luke Miller scored for Buckeye’s junior varsity in a 4-0 win. Isaiah Gebbie picked up the clean slate.
- CVCA’s Senior Night caused a 22-minute delay to the 7 p.m. start.
CVCA 1, Buckeye 0
BUCKEYE 0 0 — 0
CVCA 1 0 — 0
C — Braydon Lazzara, 13:51.
Shots on goal — Buckeye 3, CVCA 7. Corner kicks — Buckeye 2, CVCA 5. Saves — Zach Ridler (B) 6, Isaiah Slabaugh (C) 3. Records — Buckeye (10-3-1), CVCA (11-3). Junior varsity — Buckeye 4, CVCA 0.