No. 6 Avon and No. 10 Zionsville came into Saturday’s soccer game at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium having allowed 14 goals combined all season. True to form, a defensive struggle ensued, as Avon scored the only goal of the contest and secured its sixth shutout of the season.
Avon’s Luis Merchan got the ball in open space, spun away from several defenders and found the back of the net 14 minutes into the contest for his fourth goal of the season. The Orioles’ defense took over from there.
“Zionsville is a team with a lot of offensive firepower,” Avon coach Phil Schmidt said. “It was a great team defensive effort. Our goalie made some plays, our back line made some plays, our midfield made some plays. A lot of their better opportunities were from distance and our goalie was able to stop that.”
The Eagles had several opportunities early but couldn’t cash in. They finished with seven shots on goal in the contest, but Avon goalkeeper Diego Cuiriz kept them off the board. It was Avon’s first shutout since Sept. 6 against Brownsburg.
“We’ve been scored on the last few games in a row, so it was a good chance to shut out one of the best teams around,” Cuiriz said. “It’s a big confidence builder. We’ll probably end up playing them again (in the tournament), and if we can shut out this team, we can shut out a lot of other ones.”
With the exception of the lone Avon goal, Zionsville’s defense kept up with the Orioles. They allowed just four shots on goal. Unfortunately for the Eagles, defense didn’t turn into offense.
“I thought we played pretty well, but we just couldn’t finish,” Eagles coach Rob Jordan said. “They did a good job of containing us in that last third. Their back four stayed together pretty tight and didn’t give us a whole lot of opportunities. Particularly after they went up, they were packed backwards and not allowing the holes we had in the first part of the half.”
The loss snapped Zionsville’s seven-game winning streak, and it won’t get easier this week. The Eagles host No. 7 Hamilton Southeastern on Tuesday night. But Jordan hopes the stiff competition is good practice for the state tournament — and might pave the way for a return trip to Carroll Stadium in a few weeks.
“It’s always good to play good competition,” he said. “It gives you an idea of where you are and what you need to work on. We’ll hopefully see them again. Part of the reason we gave up a home game was to play on this field. This is where you play the state championship. We got a feel for what it’s like. If we get on a roll, we might come back.”