By Dan Gilles
St. Marys Memorial High School entered its Division II, Region 6 championship boys soccer game against Bay with a 12-game shutout streak.
It took about 30 minutes before the Rockets made that shutout streak history.
Junior midfielder Alex Furst’s unassisted goal with 9:19 left in the first half drew first blood for the Rockets, and it was more the enough for a 3-0 victory at Ashland Community Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Bay (15-1-5) advances to the Division II State Semifinals for the second-straight season on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined, where the Rockets will play Richfield Revere (19-0-2). St. Marys Memorial’s season ends at 16-2-3.
“We were watching the warm-ups and the field was lightning quick,” Bay coach Robert Daugherty said. “The turf was real tight and the balls were brand new, so everything was kind of a little bit faster than what we’re used to doing.
“We had our moments at the beginning, but in the end, we knew we had enough pressure to kind of put this through. We settled through the wind in the first half and got the two (goals) in the last 10 minutes, which is kind of what we’ve been doing in our last four or five games.”
Furst knocked in a rebound off Roughriders goalie Stuart Yahl. Yahl, a sophomore, hadn’t allowed a goal in his previous 12 games and 15 times in their 21 games.
“I’m an amazing coach with the lead,” Daugherty said. “You give me a nice early lead, and suddenly we look a lot better (laughs). But once Fursty got it in, we settled and things were OK. You think, ‘Alright, we can relax.’ Until that point, it was bang-bang-bang and it was dealing with the pressure.”
St. Marys Memorial had a golden opportunity within the first minute, when Matt Dine wound up with the ball three feet in front of the Bay goal. However, his shot was knocked away at the last instant by a Rocket defender.
Two minutes later, Bay’s Daniel Linhart had a shot from about 15 yards out, but it went wide right.
With 26 minutes left in the first half, Bay forward Dillon Gundlach made a steal and went on a breakaway. He passed it to Linhart, who faked Yahl and had, for a moment, nothing but turf in front of him and the net. However, St. Marys Memorial defenseman Luke Lemmerman made a diving kick save to thwart the scoring opportunity.
“We were caught with a bad touch at the beginning,” Daugherty said. “It’s a dramatically different game if they go up 1-0 early, and we know that. We come back down and Daniel has a wide-open look and he mis-hits it. Dillon has a beautiful ball and we thought it was in, but he forgot to shoot it. Sometimes forwards forget that part. Thankfully for Daniel, he gets to play another day because someone else filled the hole, which is nice.
“They were a great team that worked their tails off, and that’s kind of what we expected out of them. We knew they were athletic, big and strong. I think they got a little fatigued in the second half, and I think we settled in and things got better.”
St. Marys Memorial had another golden opportunity with just over 14 minutes left in the first half, when freshman Zach Lemmerman wound up with the ball about 10 yards away and the goalie on the ground. But his shot clanged off the top crossbar and bounced over the football goalpost.
Four minutes after Furst’s goal, Bay senior reserve midfielder Matt Koch received a throw-in from Alec White and poked a slow roller into the left-hand corner of the net to increase the Rockets’ lead to 2-0.
“If we would have scored those first two goals in the beginning, especially Lemmerman’s off the crossbar, I think we would have caught them off guard,” Roughriders coach Dave Ring said. “But once Bay settled into a rhythm, they just kept looking for our weak spots and exposed us on those throws. They just did a better job of it than we did.
“A lot of it was their patience. They play a deliberate style we’re not used to seeing, and it shakes us a little bit since we’re not used to seeing that type of play. It’s something we’ve got to get used to. This is our first time here, so we’re learning.”
With less than two minutes in the first half, Yahl was lifted for junior Kaleb Fenwick-Miller. Fenwick-Miller stayed in the rest of the game. Yahl was reportedly diagnosed with a concussion.
The Rockets added an insurance goal with 17:04 left in game when sophomore reserve Logan Schmit hit a high, arching shot over Fenwick-Miller’s head and into the back of the net. Schmit had just entered the game 10 seconds before his goal.
Bay dominated the action in the second half. St. Marys Memorial was held to no shots in the final 40 minutes while the Rockets got off 17 shots – eight shots on goal.
Overall, Bay outshot St. Marys Memorial, 26-4 – 14-1 in shots on goal. Bay goalie Colin Southerington only made one save to earn the shutout. Bay also had nine corner kicks – seven in the second half.
“This is a good solid group,” Daugherty said. “I think, combined with the teams still alive, there are three losses between the four teams remaining, which means the right teams made the final four. If the Roughriders had gone through, they only had one loss as well. It takes talent to do that and to get this far.”
Bay plays Revere in the state semifinals at Brecksville Broadview Heights High School tonight at 7 p.m.