ROCKY RIVER, Ohio – The Pirates earned a big victory in a Rocky River Stadium thriller on Saturday, getting a go-ahead Sam Miller goal at the 4:02-mark of the second half and then hanging on defeat the Avon Eagles, 14-13.
Miller’s game-winner ended a remarkable battle in a chilled North Coast mist, a see-saw tussle that included long runs of dominance, an ebb and flow of momentum and no less than 15 ties and lead changes.
The west-side battle included tremendous plays made by players on both sides up and down the field, from sideline-to-sideline and in and around both cages. And through all of that, sticking to the program’s plans and fundamentals is what stood out to head coach Lizz Steinmetz.
“I’m so proud of how we played today,” said Steinmetz. “The girls kept their heads on straight and stuck to their game.”
Their game started with a goal by Lauren Cain but one answered in quick order by three from the visiting Eagles. Then, about five minutes in, the Pirates righted the ship and started a run of their own. When Cain netted a goal at 17:44 – her second of the game and 50th of the season – the game was tied, 3-3. Cain’s goal was part of a 7-0 run that lifted Rocky River to an 8-3 lead by the 5:15-mark of the first half.
And then it was Avon’s turn. Fueled in part by winning four straight draws in one stretch, the Eagles stormed back to score seven goals – including two in the final 40 seconds of the half – before halftime. All unanswered. And thus, shifting all the momentum – and more importantly, the lead in the game — to the Eagle sideline.
Leading 9-8 when the second stanza began, Avon would then score the opening goal of the new half to close out a 7-0 run and take a 10-8 lead.
But the Striped Buccaneers had a counter in them. With big defensive efforts and groundball hustle plays turned in by Ellie Duncan (who logged 10 ground balls and three caused turnovers for the game), Cain, Miller, Abby Vacca, Kailey Budzar and Ella Nejad, the Pirates stemmed the tide.
River’s efforts in its own zone and in midfield transition defense helped the Pirate offense get some opportunities. In a three-minute stretch – from 21:40 to 17:40 – the home side got two goals from Cain and one by Duncan, and they had wrested back the lead, 11-10.
Over the next five minutes of play, a Duncan score was traded for two by Avon (Katie Beatty and Sara Hricovec). Draws at midfield became epic struggles, with Sam Miller and Natalie Curry jousting Beatty and Riley King for control of the pellet.
It was off a Miller draw control that Allie Kysela scored to lift River to a 13-12 lead at 11:59 of the second. Three minutes passed until the next goal, a game-tying marker by the Eagles’ Anastasia Alvelo. It would then be five minutes of scoreless lacrosse – five minutes full of solid defensive work on both side – before the next and final twine-finder of the afternoon.
And that goal was set up by a tremendous spill forced by Lauren Cain at the 4:35-mark. Thirty-three seconds later, Sam Miller drew a foul on a dash toward the Avon cage. She found the back of the net on an ensuing free-position shot to vault River to a 13-12 lead.
It would be the final lead either side would take, but it was not one unchallenged. A monster save by goalkeeper Hanna Burgess – on a shot from the doorstep, mere feet in front of her net – protected the one-goal cushion at the 1:20-mark. Rocky River then came up with a clear, and the Pirates ragged the final 80 ticks off the clock to seal the victory.
Burgess played the final 20 minutes of the game, collecting two saves and an impressive caused-turnover-ground-ball double.
The game’s final goal count included six by Cain, three each by Duncan and Miller, and two by Kysela. Avon was led by Katie Beatty (four goals, two assists) and Allison Kortowich (goal, four assists). An impressive Eagle passing game netted nine assists on the day.
“I’m very excited about how we’re playing right now,” said Lizz Steinmetz, noting the final week of the season and the playoff brackets beyond that.
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