By Brent Glasgow
Hendricks County Flyer
It was a day and night to be remembered in Avon sports history, and one saved by the outstretched arm of a sophomore goalkeeper.
Avon’s Tyler Shanahan made a diving stop of an Evansville Memorial penalty kick with five minutes remaining in Saturday’s semi-state final, and the Orioles finished the job for a 2-1 victory.
No. 2 Avon beat top-ranked Columbus North 3-2 in the early session, and knocked out No. 3 Memorial to reach the program’s first-ever state championship.
“That is a tough thing to do, to come down here and beat the teams we beat today,” said Avon coach Phil Schmidt, whose squad will face fellow-unbeaten Crown Point for the Class 2A crown. “They were gut-wrenching, down to the wire, back and forth games. I’m so proud of them, and hopefully we can get one more win.”
A goal by Andrew Killion put Avon ahead of Memorial 13 minutes in, but a penalty kick by Michael Riedford tied it with 34 minutes remaining.
Jordan Kleyn scored off a corner kick to give Avon a one-goal lead with 25 minutes left, and all was well until an Avon foul in the box with five minutes on the clock. With all the pressure on his shoulders, Shanahan dove to his left, and denied Riedford of a game-tying goal, and the Orioles were able to run out the clock.
“I knew if I didn’t block it, we were going to overtime and they’d have a chance to win the game,” Shanahan said. “One of my teammates, Bryce Cirbo, pointed for me to go that way, and I believed him, so I went that way.”
In its victory over Columbus North, Avon was in an early hole, as Bull Dog Riley Belding scored 12 minutes in. The Orioles didn’t wait long to answer, as Quinton Bridegroom found the back of the net on a free kick that followed a North handball at the top-center of the box.
With 28 minutes left, Kleyn found Jonathan Kopp camped out by the left post and fed him for a goal that put Avon ahead.
North tied it less than eight minutes later on a free-kick goal by Belding, but with 10 minutes remaining, Kopp sent the ball to Bridegroom, who buried the game-winner.
In beating two teams with a combined 36-1-5 record, Avon brought a loose intensity rooted in confidence.
“We were so excited and ready to play,” Avon’s Noah Zorniger said after the nightcap victory. “The win over Columbus North pumped us up for this game tonight. Now it’s time to go to the state championship and get it done.”
Avon (22-0-1) and Crown Point (20-0-1) will meet at 6 p.m. Saturday at IUPUI.