LeMon is The Man as Flashes advance
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CHAMPION -- As Tyler LeMon prepared for the biggest kick of his young soccer career, a stillness overcame Champion High stadium and hundreds of fans fell silent.
Seconds later, LeMon, a Champion junior, rid his home stadium of that silence and instead sent it into a frenzy.
"I knew what I had to do," LeMon said. "I knew I had to hit that last shot for us."
LeMon blasted a penalty kick into the right corner of the net Thursday, giving the Golden Flashes (15-0-4) their second straight Division III district championship with a 4-3 shootout victory over Ursuline (10-7-2).
"He doesn't feel any pressure. He's calm, he's cool," Champion coach Nate Mailach said of LeMon. "If somebody's going to knock that shot in, it's going to be him."
Road to regionals
Champion will face Wellington, a 3-2 winner over Elyria Catholic, in a regional semifinal Tuesday at Medina High.
"We want to ride this train out to state," LeMon said. "We're not done yet. We're not going home yet. We're just starting."
Unseeded Ursuline was seven minutes from ending Champion's season, clinging to a 2-1 lead, when the top-seeded Golden Flashes turned to their biggest threat with time running out.
Senior John Emery.
"If there was anybody who was going to do it, it was going to be him," Mailach said. "He got free and sent it to overtime. That's what we expect out of him."
The school's career scoring leader had been kept in check for much of the game, but with 7:06 remaining in regulation, Emery scored on a ball that rebounded off Ursuline's goalkeeper.
Champion senior Chris Palm made the play possible by crossing the ball into the box.
The teams ended regulation tied 2-2. Palm scored Champion's first goal, while junior Ryan Novotny scored twice for the Irish.
Novotny's second goal came with 31:11 remaining, giving Ursuline its 2-1 lead that it protected until Emery answered.
The teams then played 30 minutes of scoreless overtime, setting up the shootout.
"That was the most high-intensity game of soccer I've ever seen," said Mailach, soaking wet after his players doused him with water. "Those two teams just battled and battled."
In a shootout, each team selects five players to participate in five rounds of alternating penalty kicks, with much of the attention placed on the goalkeepers.
"I was scared, but it was something I knew I had to do," Champion junior goalkeeper Rich Slama said. "You just have to pick a side and go with your instincts."
Senior Chris DePaola, sophomore Justin Mihaly and Novotny scored shootout goals for the Irish, whose two misses came on shots that hit the crossbar and right post.
"These boys don't deserve to lose a game like this," said Ursuline coach Harry Leith, his players in tears around him. "It's a bad way to go out -- to lose on penalty kicks.
"But we'll be back next year," he added. "There's no doubt about it."
Junior Ryan Canatsey, Palm and junior Max Brugler scored shootout goals for the Golden Flashes, setting up LeMon's dramatics.
"We think the sky's the limit on this team," Mailach said. "Our goal last year was to make it to regionals. This year, we want to make it through regionals."