by Frank Aceto

Broadview Heights -- One person came from far out west.

Another traveled a number of miles from the south.

Yes, when it comes to the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy boys soccer team, frequent flyer miles aren't an issue.

It looks like more travel plans had to be arranged quickly.

That's because the Royals made a triumphant return to the state championship game.

CVCA improved to 15-6 after posting a 3-0 victory over Bay Village Bay in a Division II state semifinal contest Nov. 7 at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School.

With the win, CVCA earned a date with the Dayton Carroll, a 4-0 winner over Bexley in the other semifinal contest, Nov. 10 at Columbus Crew Stadium. CVCA has played Carroll before in the state title game, as Carroll won 3-2 on a penalty kick shootout in the 2008 Division II state final.

Results of the state title gamewere not available at press time.

It was the Royals' seventh trip to the state championship game in the last 11 seasons.

CVCA won Division III state titles in 2004 and 2010 and was the runner-up in 2009. The Royals also won Division II state championship in 2007 and were the Division II state runners-up in 2002 and 2008.

Some of those former standout players, including one who makes his home near the Pacific Ocean, continued to pay tribute to CVCA's wildly successful boys soccer program.

And Royals head coach Jon Taylor, a 2003 CVCA alum, savored every moment of it.

"There were a bunch of alums," Taylor said. "One came on a plane from California and another came from Georgia. We also had a bunch of guys come from Messiah College [Mechanicsburg, Pa.]. It was really exciting."

Those loyal fans witnessed a classic Royals' performance. CVCA showcased otherworldly skill, speed and desire to reach Crew Stadium once again.

They also got to see the Royals' latest star.

Sophomore Ben Locke, a Hudson resident, scored all three goals for CVCA. Two of those goals took place in the second half on one-touch opportunities.

He got the Royals on the board when he kicked a low liner past Rockets' goalkeeper Koray Sayir with 5 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the first half. Locke, who was in the middle of the penalty box when he scored, got the ball from junior Hayden Kaiser, who passed the ball to Locke from the right side.

Locke added goal No. 2 when junior Colin Surface sent the ball Locke's way from the left side. Surface's cross wound up deflecting off the foot of a Bay defender, but the ball went right to Locke's feet. Locke did the rest as the Royals took a 2-0 lead just a little more than two minutes into the second half.

Locke scored his final goal when junior Johnny Akindipe dribbled down the sideline and made a perfect pass to Locke in the middle. Again, Locke one-timed it with his right foot into the net for his team-leading 20th goal of the season.

"Fantastic," Taylor said of his sophomore sensation. "I don't even know if he had more than three shots."

Although it took CVCA awhile to get on the scoreboard, Locke and his teammates weren't concerned. They knew their time would come eventually.

"We're a very patient team that's not going to break down or fall apart," Locke said. "We gathered ourselves together in the second half and played the ball to the center midfield. We wanted to come out strong in the second half and put them [the Rockets] on their heels."

Mission accomplished.

After Bay's defense managed to hang with the Royals' array of playmakers, CVCA took control after halftime.

The Royals played keep away with the Rockets (14-5-3) and were on the attack for much of the last 40 minutes.

When Bay had a rare opportunity inside CVCA's penalty box, the Royals' defense, led by senior Tim Horth, stood tall.

"I think Tim is the unsung hero," Taylor said. "We've always looked to Tim to lead the team and he has done that."

Sayir stopped five CVCA shots, while Royals' senior goalkeeper Chad Prtenjak made four saves.

CVCA has played quality soccer throughout the season. But even a powerhouse squad like the Royals had its peaks and valleys.

For starters, CVCA found itself a modest 7-5 after dropping a come-from-behind 2-1 decision to Hudson Sept. 29 at Royals Stadium.

Taylor did not forget about that game after his team's convincing win Nov. 7.

"It's a process," he said. "Every game, whether you win or lose contributes to the end of the season. Hudson was a very good team. I think that game helped us in the long run."

It's safe to say CVCA relishes it.

"The process is about bringing a certain professionalism to every practice and every game," Locke said. "We just want to keep it going."

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