AURORA — They may meet again in a far more important contest down the road.
For now, though, the Greenmen have a slight edge against their possible future tournament opponent.
The host Aurora girls soccer team improved to 7-3-2 with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy Thursday at Veterans Stadium.
This may only be part one of the Greenmen-Royals’ rivalry. The two teams will be in the same district when postseason play takes place in a couple of weeks.
On this night, the Greenmen had the final answer when they needed it most.
"They’re a very big and long team," Aurora head coach Bo Wilson said of CVCA, which dropped to 7-6-2 in 2018. "They have a lot of speed."
Fortunately for the Greenmen, their top offensive player delivered just when things looked like they were starting to slip away.
Forward Taylor Burick scored two critical second-half goals to lead Aurora. She scored her first goal on a penalty kick.
Her second goal was a thing of beauty with a little less than six minutes left. And the best part about it is, other players contributed to the Greenmen’s game-winning work of art.
Sophomore Emma Krondorfer delivered a pass to classmate Carlie Filkouski on the right side. After a few dribbles, Filkouski crossed the ball to the middle of the Royals’ penalty box.
Burick, who has been bothered by a hip injury for much of her high school career, leapt into the air to head it past CVCA sophomore goalkeeper Isabella McClendon for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
"Taylor is as good as anyone I’ve seen on headers," Wilson said. "We really got the ball to the sides. We struggled with connecting. This time, we were patient and we made that extra pass."
Burick gave the Greenmen a 2-0 lead less than three minutes into the second half when she was tripped in the box. She smashed a low liner to the right corner of the net on the ensuing penalty kick.
Aurora got its first goal on a set piece, too.
A little more than 11 minutes into the game, CVCA was called for a foul in the middle of the field. Senior Sarah Nemeth took the free kick from approximately 33 yards away and lofted a high shot that went off the fingertips of McClendon and into the net.
The Greenmen dominated possession in the first half. Once the players returned to the field after halftime, the Royals looked like a much different team.
CVCA made a charge and had the advantage in possession in the final 40 minutes.
"We made some adjustments," Royals head coach Courtney Wagner said. "We talked to the girls about putting more pressure on them (the Greenmen)."
The main catalyst for CVCA’s makeover on offense was senior midfielder Kenzie Spodnik.
When Spodnik had the ball with some running room, she was the most dangerous player on the field.
Spodnik played the role of facilitator on the Royals’ first goal. A little more than 14 minutes into the second half, Spodnik sent a free kick into Aurora’s box.
The ball landed near the feet of junior midfielder Emily Hansen, who poked it into the net inside the 6-yard line past Greenmen sophomore goalkeeper Morgan Demagall.
Spodnik took care of matters herself to tie the match with a little more than 10 minutes left.
She got free on the left side, beat a defender with a nice move and then blasted a shot with her left foot into the right corner of the net.
"She is as good as advertised," Wilson said of Spodnik. "She’s like Taylor in the fact that she comes to the ball. She pulls your back out and that exposes the middle."
CVCA will be anxious to play Aurora again. The Royals have come a long way after a slow start.
"We have gotten a lot deeper in our play," Wagner said. "We’ve been able to run with teams. We have more depth on our bench."
Aurora has one serious matter to address before it can get ready for the postseason.
The Greenmen are scheduled to visit Tallmadge Monday at Thomas Rossiaky Stadium. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
If it defeats the Blue Devils, Aurora will capture the Suburban League American Conference championship.
If the Greenmen do accomplish their mission, they will need to block out the unnecessary distractions that hindered them earlier in the season.
"It has been that way all year," Wilson said. "Since our seniors have put so much pressure on themselves, I think it impacted our season. They have gotten back to the mindset of ‘Let’s just play and enjoy the game that we love.’"
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.