by MICHAEL LEONARD | SPORTS EDITOR
Columbus — No one could say the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy boys soccer team hadn’t earned its trip to the state final.
During their playoff run, the Royals, who featured Tallmadge residents Collin Surface and Sammy Meszaros, had vanquished the No. 2 (Richfield Revere), No. 3 (Akron Archbishop Hoban) and No. 9 (Bay Village Bay) ranked teams in the final Division II Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association poll.
However, the CVCA players also knew their final challenge would be their most difficult. Not only was Dayton Carroll the two-time defending Division II state boys soccer champion, but the Patriots came into this year’s title game riding a state-record 59-game unbeaten streak.
Early goals from Carroll insured the Royals wouldn’t be the ones to break the streak.
Carroll claimed its third straight state championship and fourth in the last five years, thanks to a 2-0 win in the Division II state title game Nov. 10 at Columbus Crew Stadium.
The Patriots (19-0-4) opened the scoring in the second minute, which CVCA coach John Taylor noted threw the Royals off their game.
“Any time that you come to Columbus, because of the venue change, sometimes everything changes,” Taylor said. “I think that we were confident and I think we were ready.
“When you give away a goal in the first two minutes, a lot of things you plan for have to change.”
Carroll took the lead when captain Vonne Byrd stole the ball off the Royals defense in the second minute.
Byrd slid a pass in the box to forward John Rutan, who put the ball past CVCA goalie Chad Prtenjak.
Prtenjak finished with two saves on the afternoon, as Carroll’s attack didn’t have too many quality chances, but it took advantage of those it had.
Royals’ defender Ben Gradert said the goal actually helped the Royals.
“It more woke us up than anything else,” Gradert said. “The atmosphere was a bit overwhelming.”
CVCA (15-7) tried to work its possession game against Carroll and was able to start moving the ball forward after the goal.
However, the Royals were caught on the counterattack in the 29th minute.
A long ball ahead from Carroll midfiedler Zach Zwiesler allowed Byrd to get behind the Royals defense on the right wing.
Prtenjak left his line to cut down the angle, but Byrd lofted a diagonal ball over Prtenjak that bounced into the net to make it 2-0.
CVCA had its best scoring chance right after the second goal.
Off a corner kick, Gradert put his shot onto the crossbar.
The rebound fell right to Gradert, but his header attempt hit the crossbar as well.
Royals’ defender Joe Horth attempted to take a third shot on net, but his shot was blocked and cleared by the Carroll defense.
Horth’s shot was the lone shot on goal in the game for CVCA.
CVCA had the bulk of the possession, had big advantages in territory and drew four corner kicks in the second half.
However, the Royals could not find their finishing touch. Time and again, it seemed a Carroll defender was blocking a shot or cross every time CVCA got near the penalty box.
CVCA finished with seven shots, but did not have a shot on goal in the second half.
Taylor acknowledged his team was emotional after the loss, though not necessarily about the loss.
“The end of the season is tough for the kids, regardless of whether we win or lose,” Taylor said. “The kids in the program value it.”
Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy soccer team falls in state title game
by MICHAEL LEONARD | SPORTS EDITOR