INDIANAPOLIS — The rain-induced switch to North Central’s artificial turf football field didn’t bother Avon in Saturday’s Class 2A boys’ soccer regional final versus Cathedral.
The faster track amplified Avon’s strong ball-handling and quickness, as the Orioles jumped out early and rolled to a 5-0 victory.
“We love playing on turf, and the guys’ eyes lit up when we got off the bus and saw that’s where we were playing,” Avon coach Phil Schmidt said. “We really played well as a team, moved off the ball, possessed well and just played a great tactical game.”
Cathedral (13-4-3) simply couldn’t keep up with Avon when it had the ball, which was virtually the entire 80 minutes.
“The faster pitch always suits us,” Avon’s Noah Zorniger said. “We like possessing, getting down to the end line, coming back at an angle and finishing it. That’s what we did.”
Second-ranked Avon (20-0-1) will face No. 1 Columbus North (19-0-1) in the first round of next Saturday’s semi-state at Evansville Harrison. Max Preps has the squads in reversed 1-2 order nationally, with the Orioles as the top-ranked team in the country.
Avon won a preseason match-up with the Bull Dogs, but the defending state champs had multiple players out with injuries.
“We’ve been looking forward to playing them all year,” Avon’s Quinton Bridegroom said. “The state poll has them on top, and we want to get after them and show them who we are.”
On Saturday, Avon’s offensive onslaught kicked off less than 12 minutes in when Michael Russello blasted a shot into the back of the net, one that froze Cathedral goalkeeper Greg Maginot in place with its velocity.
Six minutes before halftime, Bridegroom sent a corner kick toward the frame, off the head of Jordan Kleyn and then the foot of Taylor Kleyn for a two-goal lead.
“They were trying to play us very defensive, so getting that early goal was really important,” Schmidt said. “Getting that 2-0 lead stretched them out a little bit and opened things up for us.”
Jordan Kleyn scored 13 minutes into the second half, when he knocked in a 50-yard free kick delivered by Zorniger.
Bridegroom and Trevor Semakula scored a minute apart to up Avon’s lead to 5-0 midway through the second half and turn it into a rout.
“We always dominate the second halves,” Bridegroom said. “We’ve done it all year and we’re happy we could do it again today.”
The winner between Avon and Columbus North will face the victor between Evansville Memorial (16-1-5) and Center Grove (16-3-1) next Saturday night for a berth in the state championship. With Avon’s girls’ team in Evansville for its own semi-state, Schmidt said the town should be filled with Oriole black and yellow.
“I think it’ll be an advantage for us to have the fan clubs of both teams down there,” he said. “We’re really proud of the girls getting there, and it’ll be a lot of fun and a great challenge for both of us to try and make the state finals.”