AVON – To reach their goals this season, the Zionsville boys soccer team knows there will be times where they have to win when they aren’t playing their best.
Such was the case Saturday morning at Avon, when the top-ranked Eagles weren’t clicking on all cylinders, but found a way to get a 2-1 win against the Orioles.
“We have talked a lot as a coaching staff about how happy we are with our seniors, and even our junior class, and the way they lead and just find a way,” Zionsville head coach Rob Jordan said. “It isn’t just our captains either, who have done incredible job, but it is across the board as a team. They have a common goal and desire, and it’s fun that even when we have these bad games, they still find a way to win.”
Zionsville took the lead in the 18th minute.
Avon had a corner kick that Zionsville’s Josh Kuller cleared straight to Evan Miller, who got the ball near midfield, then out-ran two Avon defenders before slotting a shot into the back of the net.
“Evan did an incredible job on that goal,” Jordan said. “Overall he struggled a little bit today, but his contribution was huge. The release pass from Josh Kuller was incredible too. But it is really hard to have the ball and hold onto it from the half with two guys chasing you. That was a good finish too.”
The Eagles almost added to the lead twice late in the first half.
First Ben Weidner’s shot from the left side caromed off the post. Then, in the final minute of the half, Ben Dunning’s shot was saved off the post, denying the Eagles a second goal.
The Eagles did double their lead midway through the second half, when Alex Backhaus’ cross was headed in by Alex Carr with 26 minutes to play.
The comfortable two-goal lead didn’t last long however, as a missed clearance chance by the Eagles led to an Avon goal with 20:14 to play.
The Orioles had a couple of chances to tie the game, but only one serious chance with seven minutes left that went just wide.
Whenever the Orioles got pressure, it was more from Zionsville players slipping on the wet field or not covering back for one another.
The Eagles played most of the game without senior captain Chris Freeman, who came on for the final 10 minutes. Jordan said Freeman does a lot of work in the midfield to help stabilize the Eagles, but said he felt like the guys who got more playing time in his absence did a good job of helping to see the game out as well.
“We flipped the formation in the second half, and only played Chris (Freeman) about 10-15 minutes in the half,” Jordan said. “He is a big part of how we control and manage the middle of the field. I thought Dunning and Backhaus did a great job in there, but it changes the complexion of our team without Chris out there. We kept our shape pretty well, but were stabbing an awful lot and didn’t have the bounce and cover on defense.”
Next up for the Eagles is their final road game of the season on Tuesday night at HSE.
The Eagles will then have the Zionsville Classic, and home games against Brownsburg and Guerin Catholic to end the regular season.
“We still have two conference games left and Hamilton Southeastern is always such a great game,” Jordan said. “They always have great teams and they are great battles. Last year, they got us in the final minutes and the year before that they scored with under 30 seconds to go and we scored with 14 seconds left to tie it 1-1. It is always a great battle and it is fun to play them.”