By Ryan Kaczmarski
The WESTLAKE boys soccer team went to its home field Saturday night knowing what goals head coach Mike Besu had for the Demons.
The first goal was attained two weeks ago, when the Demons defeated Midpark and captured the Southwestern Conference crown. The second goal was to move past sectional play. That goal was achieved on Read Field at Lee Burneson Middle School Saturday at the expense of the OLMSTED FALLS Bulldogs, as the Demons won 4-0.
“We got step two (out of the way),” Besu said. “We have two more games to win and get to our goal of getting out of the district, and get to the regionals.
“At the same time, we respect everybody, but fear none.”
It was a back and forth defensive struggle until Westlake’s Nick Wertman scored the first goal of the game with 1:54 left in the first half, making the score 1-0 and giving the Demons some momentum going into halftime. Westlake forward Mark Sutcliffe made the score 2-0 with his goal just 13 minutes into the second half and Wertman completed the hat trick with second half goals coming with 24:21 and 7:43 left in the game, respectively.
The scoring has been there all season for the Demons, but it was the defense that won the game for Westlake.
“We were without our best defender tonight – who was out of town at a family wedding – and we had to put our second-best offensive player on defense,” Besu said. “We were missing another forward, who should be back on (Oct. 22).
“I think the kids played great,” he added. “They were a little nervous at the beginning, but once (we) scored the first goal, they broke the ice and they knew (they could win).”
Besu also knows that having Jamie Lackner pitching the shutout in goal was no accident.
“He’s the difference-maker on our team this year,” he said. “He came out of nowhere (this season) and fortunately nobody knew who he was, because he has been playing behind one of the best goalkeepers of our time in Alex Ferrell (now playing at Wake Forest University) for the past couple of years. I’ve been telling people for the past couple of years that I have probably the best goalkeeper in the conference behind Ferrell, but nobody believed it. He’s proven, this year, that he is as good as anybody.”
For Bulldogs’ head coach James Walchanowicz, this loss was an extra tough one to take.
“This was a very intense game,” he said. “I don’t think the final score was necessarily indicative of the game as a whole, but hats off to Westlake. They have a good team, and when they had their opportunities (to score), they finished.”
Westlake will play at home against Avon tonight at 7 p.m. for the district semifinals.
Earlier in the day, BAY (10-4-3) defeated Benedictine High School 8-0 at home for the Division II sectional crown.
The Rockets were led by senior midfielder Brady Kinsey, who scored a hat trick. Other Rockets scoring in the game were Dan Linhart, Craig Linder, Alex Furst, Cole Jacobs and Ben Tepper.
“Our last three games were set up as must-wins,” Bay head coach Bobby Dougherty said. “We played that West Shore Conference final against Rocky River (in which Bay won 2-0); we win that. Westlake comes here and we win the ‘Dover Cup’ back and in the first round of the playoffs, we have a bye. In the last 15-20 days, we’ve had two games. Finally, we got this first playoff game out of the way.”
With Benedictine not putting up much in the way of competition, Dougherty used the game as a chance to knock the rust off of his bench and give everyone on the team some extended minutes.
“Everyone got to play a lot,” he said. “We really split up the clock nicely. We shared the goals.
“Cole scored his first goal ever,” he added. “He’s a senior outside back and he never had an opportunity for a goal, so that was nice. That also makes it 19 guys who’ve scored for us this year.”
AROUND THE WESTSHORE:
ROCKY RIVER (8-8-1) defeated Firelands 4-3 for the sectional championship. The victory sets up a rematch against Bay for the Division II district semifinals. The game will be played at Bay Memorial Stadium tonight at 7 p.m.
FAIRVIEW (11-4-3) beat Vermilion 2-0 for the Division II sectional crown. The Warriors play at Padua tonight at 7 p.m. for the chance to play the winner of the Bay versus Rocky River game for the district championship to be played on Saturday night.
LUTHERAN WEST lost to Independence 1-0 in the division III sectional finals Saturday afternoon.
NORTH OLMSTED (11-4-2) shut out Berea 4-0 for the Division I sectional championship on Saturday. The Eagles will play at Strongsville for the district semifinals tonight at 7 p.m.