By John Kovach
CHAMPION — There were two crucial plays in the Lakeview-Champion girls high school Division II district soccer tournament final Thursday night at Champion’s field — and both were made by Lakeview.
Sophomore Lindsey Clark scored her 26th goal of the season in the first half, while freshman goalie Elaine Moldovan made a great save on Marissa Walker’s penalty kick in the second half, enabling Lakeview to salvage a 1-0 victory over Champion and advance to the regional semifinal at Ravenna High.
The Bulldogs will play Chagrin Falls Wednesday at 7 p.m. Chagrin Falls beat Salem 5-1 in the other semifinal.
“This may be the first time that Lakeview has qualified for the regional,” said seventh-year coach Shawn Varley. “I don’t recall it ever happening before and I have followed Lakeview soccer since the early 1990s.”
What made Clark’s goal and Moldovan’s save so important was that they were the only two high points of a fierce defensive battle, in which Lakeview’s offense dominated while Champion’s defense withstood attack after attack before its offense finally showed some life near the end.
“We dominated the possessions but they found a way to counterattack,” said Varley, whose Bulldogs tied Champion during the regular season at 1-1.
“The first time we [played Champion] we didn’t use our outsides [offensive attack]. We tried to force it up the middle. But we went to the outside this time.”
But, “Marissa Walker is fast. That’s what makes her a threat. She almost scored a couple of times.”
Lakeview outshot Champion, 18-6, while Moldovan had four saves and Champion goalie Taylor Petersal nine saves.
“By [Lakeview] going to the outside, they were able to find some girls in the middle for passes,” said coach Dan Houle of Champion (11-4-5). “They did it very well. That increases their chances of getting the ball down the field. We also did that in the sceond half.”
But Houle complained, “[We] didn’t play the first half. [We] just watched. We were beaten to every single ball in the first half.
“We needed to keep the ball in [our offensive] zone more than we did.”
Clark, who scored her game-winning goal at 26:30 of the first half, said the outside attack was the difference in the game.
“Our team was working the ball more to the outside and we had more cross passes,” said Clark, who outfoxed the defense to score from about 10 feet out. “I got around a defender and hit it in.”
How was Clark able to score 26 goals this season?
“My teammates help me by getting the ball to me,” she said.
Walker, a speedy, aggressive and tireless player and Champion’s main weapon, almost scored the equalizer about midway through the second half.
Sher drove the ball single-handedly down the center of the field but was tripped approaching the goal and drew a penalty shot.
But goalie Moldovan, although slipping and falling down, managed to get her hand on the ball to barely knock it aside to prevent the tying goal.
That play seemed to enliven the sluggish Champion team, which threatened to score three more times to no avail.
“We had some scoring opportunites,” said Houle. “Walker was our offense. The fact that she has so much stamina makes her a threat. She was running to every ball.”