by Alan Brads
The Cedarville Yellow Jackets clinched a first-round bye in the G-MAC tournament Tuesday night with a 3-1 victory over Walsh. Cedarville finished the season with a 10-3-1 record in the conference, good enough for second place only behind the Lake Erie Storm.
After Ohio Dominion lost to Tiffin, both Cedarville and Walsh knew that a win would give either team the second seed and first-round bye in the conference tournament. The stakes had not been higher all season.
Cedarville dominated possession in the first 25 minutes and did not allow a single scoring chance to Walsh, but failed to get on the scoreboard. After several missed opportunities including four corner kicks, midfielder Pedro Alvarez finally found the back of the net.
Senior Sammy Kilimann launched a corner kick into the box that ricocheted off multiple attackers and defenders. Alvarez hit the ball off the crossbar once, then sent it sailing off his forehead over the goalkeeper to take a 1-0 lead.
Cedarville goalkeeper Jared Zacharias played an excellent match with several leaping saves, but Walsh freshman Jac Humphries scored to level the match early in the second half.
Junior Jake Johnson recaptured the lead for the Yellow Jackets with a 62nd minute goal. Johnson was a key player throughout the match, constantly outrunning defenders to create goal scoring opportunities and corner kicks, just as he has been all season.
With just seven minutes left to play Cedarville senior Gui Fernandez drew a penalty kick, allowing Alvarez to put the game on ice with a rocket to the left side of the net.
The bench erupted into celebration knowing that Alvarez’s goal had sent them straight to the conference semifinals.
“It was great to get back on our own field,” Johnson said. “We haven’t lost on this turf this year. I think it showed a lot of character for the guys coming back and putting this one away.”
The win came with the satisfaction of revenge as the Cavaliers had crushed Cedarville 3-0 on Sept. 30. But Cedarville had Walsh in their sights even before they lost the first matchup.
“This game was circled on our calendar before the season started,” head coach Brett Faro said. “We knew Walsh would be a great team, but you always want to finish the season well.”
The Jackets will try to carry their momentum into the conference semifinals on Nov. 11, which will be played on Lake Erie’s home turf in Painesville. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.