Aurora boys soccer shuts down NDCL to reach district final

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Aurora senior Hayden Hall takes an inbound pass during the Greenmen's 2-0 win over Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin in Division II district semifinal game Oct. 27 at Veterans Stadium.
Aurora senior Jimmy Miller runs ahead during the Greenmen's 2-0 playoff win over Notre Dame Cathedral Latin Oct. 27 at home.

AURORA — Many soccer coaches love their team being able to limit their opposition's chances more than creating their own.

The theory goes that, if the opposition can't score, then you can't lose.

However, with the penalty-kick shootout utilized in the OHSAA soccer playoffs, it does pay to be able to play well on offense as well.

On Oct. 27 at Veterans Stadium, the Aurora boys were solid on both ends of the field.

Despite a misty rain making ball possession difficult, the Greenmen scored a 2-0 win over Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin in a Division II district semifinal game.

With the win, Aurora improved to 14-2-3 on the season and advanced the Division II Northeast 1 district final game at top-seeded Warrren Howland Oct. 31 at 1 p.m.

Howland, who is the defending Division II state runner-up, remained undefeated Oct. 27 with a 4-0 win over Cortland Lakeview.

NDCL finished the season at 7-10.

The Greenmen's defense was on point all night, as Aurora finished with a 7-0 edge in shots on goal.

"They were phenomenal," Aurora coach Ryan Conner said of his defense. "We had no major mistakes. When its that wet and slippery out there, anything can happen."

NDCL coach Marco DiFranco said his team had nothing to be ashamed of.

"It was a tough game for us," DiFranco said. "They did a good job on defense. That's a great team over there."

While the conditions were sloppy, Aurora took control of the game with a well-worked goal in the fourth minute.

Senior Jimmy Miller ran onto a ball lifted over the Lions' defense and sprinted down the right sideline.

Miller hit a perfect crossing ball into the box, which junior forward Zach Geier smashed off of NDCL goaltender Nick Guarniere and in.

"It wasn't the best finish, but Jimmy did a great job crossing the ball in," Geier said. "The weather made it hard to play, but both teams had to adjust to it."

"We've been working on that play in practice and it was great to see it worked," Conner said. "Zach's been doing that all year for us. He's come up with the big goals."

DiFranco lamented going down early, as he noted the first 10 minutes of the first half may have been his team's best spell of the game.

"It was hard for us to come back after we went down early, especially because we were really pressing it," DiFranco said.

The longer the first half went on, the more Aurora controlled the game. The Lions' defense stood tall for the rest of it, as Guardiere made some very good saves. He finished with five saves on the night.

While Aurora goaltender Ethan Hoff did not make a save in the shutout, he was active in his box, breaking up several through balls from the Lions.

Aurora led 1-0 at the half and deep into the second half, as NDCL attempted to press forward on the counterattack. The Lions look most dangerous on set pieces, but Aurora's defense was able clear away several free kicks.

"When you're creating chances and you don't get that second goal, you can start to feel pressure,"

The pressure was relieved in the 64th minute, thanks to one of Aurora's trademark plays.

Senior Mason Bizjak had put in several dangerous long throws throughout the game.

In the 64th minutes, Bizjak sent a flat throw into the box from the left sideline. It went right to the head of senior Ben Wilson, who flicked a perfect backwards head into the net.

Aurora's defense took care of the rest, as the Lions had only one shot in the game. The Greenmen also finished with a 6-2 edge in corner kicks.

Aurora advanced to the district final for the second straight year. Knowing the pedigree Howland has, Geier said the Greenmen are ready for the challenge.

"Every game we go into, we believe we can win," Geier said.