MACEDONIA — Both Nordonia and Stow-Munroe Falls boys soccer came into their game Tuesday looking to discover their groove in the Suburban League National Conference.
The Bulldogs were able to find their offense, especially in the second half. For the Knights, it was another long night against a conference opponent.
After Nordonia scored the opening goal, Stow overwhelmed the Knights, as a pair of second-half goals led to a 3-1 win at Boliantz Stadium.
Stow, which was coming off a 1-0 home loss to North Canton Hoover Saturday, improved to 4-3-2, 2-2 in the National Conference. Nordonia dropped to 3-4-3, 0-4 in the National Conference.
Bulldogs coach Kyle Kosmala said his team may have played its best game of the season vs. Hoover — except it was unable to finish its scoring chances.
"It was good to finally score some goals tonight," Kosmala said. "We had problems finding the net the last few games. I thought we controlled the game tonight."
Knights coach Jason Stepp could only lament that his team wilted in the second half.
"In the first half, it was an even contest," Stepp said. "Every pass we made in the second half was either lateral or backwards. That allowed Stow to jump us. We didn’t have any way forward except for trying to hit long balls up to our fast guys."
Stow’s pressure on the Knights was evident from the opening minutes of the game, but the Bulldogs spurned their early chances, thanks to some good defense and Knights goaltender Zach Westbrooks.
Westbrooks finished with nine save, several of which came at point-blank range.
Stow was made to pay for not converting their chances, as Nordonia’s lone goal was a thing of beauty.
In the 21st minute, Nordonia earned a free kick just outside the right corner of the penalty box. Izac Coleman took the kick for the Knights and curled a shot just under the crossbar to make it 1-0.
After the goal, however, the game was pretty much all Bulldogs.
Stow came hard for the equalizer after the goal and, after missing some earlier chances, Stow forward Tristen Mattson pulled Stow level in the 31st minute.
Taking a pass from Miles Thomas, Mattson ran towards the center of the field and unleashed a laser beam into the upper right corner of the next from 25 yards out.
"We’ve just been working on trying to get the forward quickly," Mattson said. "Miles and I work really well together."
"I thought we ended the first half in the right way, even though they got the tying goal," Stepp said. "We just couldn’t get anything going."
Indeed, the Bulldogs seemed to step up their pressure in the second half. Stow would take the lead in the 48th in the minute.
Senior Josh Colvis served a ball into the six-yard box. Westbrooks punched away the initial ball after it deflected off a head, but the ball fell to Stow senior Travis Shrout.
Shrout poked the ball through a maze of legs in front of the goal and it found the net to make it 2-1.
Nordonia was held without a shot on goal in the second half, as both coaches noted Stow was controlling almost every 50/50 ball.
"Nick Kulhke and Ethan Hearty have really stepped up to be the guys who win those balls for us," Kosmala said. "They’ve also become better at doing what they need to do after they win the ball."
Stow kept pushing until it found the knockout blow in the 71st minute. Thomas played distributor again, this time feeding a through ball to Mattson, which allowed Mattson to get break towards net from 30 yards out.
Shedding his defender and going one-on-one with Westbrooks, Mattson tucked the ball into the lower left corner of the net to ice the game.
"It was nearly offsides, but they timed it perfectly," Kosmala said.
Stow finished with a 12-3 edge in shots on goal and a 12-1 edge in corner kicks. Bulldog goaltender Chris Miller had two saves on the night.
Having played seven of its first nine games on the road, Stow will travel to the Copley Road Fields Saturday at 1 p.m. to take on Akron Firestone.
Meanwhile, Nordonia will travel to Barberton Thursday at 7 p.m.