MACEDONIA: Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy advanced to the state semifinals as a late goal gave them a 1-0 win over Hunting Valley University School in a Division II regional final Saturday afternoon at Nordonia High School.
To the Royals (14-6), who took down top-seeded Revere in a district final and Cortland Lakeview in a regional semifinal, know that the opportunity to keep playing is what it’s all about.
“The group is excited to stay together for another weekend, another three days of training, another game,” CVCA coach Jon Taylor said. “We really are enjoying the process. The guys have persevered through quite a bit.”
With just eight minutes remaining in a scoreless match, CVCA registered the game-winning goal. Junior Ben Gradert took control of the ball in the middle of the field just outside the box, dribbled around a defender, popped the ball up while heading to his left and crossed the ball to just the right spot for junior Sammy Meszaros.
Meszaros headed the ball into the net to put CVCA into a state semifinal.
The Royals had a couple of promising scoring opportunities before that but weren’t able to complete the final touch to open up enough space. Gradert’s ball control did just that.
“It was a well-taken restart and he [Ben] battled for it really well in the air,” Taylor said. “It was a really special play by Ben. A lot of the hard work on that final piece of the goal was done by him with the assist. That was fantastic.”
The Preppers came close to forcing overtime in the final two minutes. Forward Trenton Bulucea created an open look just outside the goalie box but his shot sailed wide left. University got a corner kick in the closing seconds and after a short scramble, forward Jared Bell tried a low shot but had it deflected and cleared by CVCA freshman Gino Finelli with 10 seconds remaining.
Earlier in the match, CVCA junior Josiah DiPaolo got a shot off after a nice cross from Finelli, but couldn’t convert. Senior Zack Bosshard took a shot from 30 yards out and placed it just above the cross bar, and sophomore Joe Horth had a header miss a few feet to the right. A minute later, the Royals had another chance on a cross into the box but had it knocked away by University goalkeeper John Mino. The closest chance came just two minutes before the eventual goal, when Meszaros was just a step behind a crossed ball off the foot of junior Tim Andrassy.
The Royals weren’t able to convert time and time again but remained poised. Taylor credited a string of close matches — some wins, some losses — in the regular season with giving CVCA the experience to not panic.
“I think the experiences, especially through the middle part of our season, playing against really good teams and being in a lot of close games, has benefited us here at the end,” Taylor said. “I think what you’ve seen in this group is that there’s a belief not just in the process but in one another. This team is for each other.
“Everyone is hoping the player next to them, whether it’s on the field or in the depth chart, succeeds. When you get a group of players working toward the success of the group, then it’s a special experience to be a part of.”
CVCA will face Bay Village Bay in a state semifinal game at 7 p.m. Wednesday at a site yet to be determined.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.