Editor’s Note: To view a photo gallery from this event, please visit NOS photographer Larry McKee at www.lmckeephotography.com. Have video of this event? E-Mail Senior Editor Dan Stickradt at email@example.com.
BY DAN STICKRADT
TROY — Dave Muczynski told Danny Swanson to put some pace on his late-game free kick and the senior adhered to those wishes.
Swanson’s low, bending free kick sailed through traffic to the far post and was redirected into the corner of the goal by sophomore Skyler Russ with 1:53 remaining, as Auburn Hills Avondale rallied for a 2-1 victory over second-ranked Spring Lake in the Division 2 boys soccer state finals at Troy Athens High School.
The goal was Russ’ second straight game-winning tally in the postseason and it helped Avondale earn its first state championship in boys soccer and first in all sports since the school claimed the Class B boys basketball title in 2002.
“I got just enough foot on it so the goalkeeper couldn’t reach it,” said Russ, who scored late Wednesday in a 2-1 victory over Bloomfield Hills Andover in the state semifinals. “I didn’t want this to go to overtime.”
Muczynski felt that his team could score with all of their chances on free kicks, long throw-ins and sharp passes down the sides, where the Yellowjackets’ speedy forwards created havoc against the Lakers all afternoon.
“Skyler, who scored the (game-winner) the other night, scores again and those were his only two goals of the season,” added Muczynski. “His first goal was in the semifinal and now a state championship winner. I told Danny to put some pace on it and see what happens. It worked out for us. We had a lot of chances.”
Avondale, which had never reached the Final Four until this season, walked off the field with a state title trophy despite falling from the state rankings in mid-September. The Yellowjackets closed with eight straight wins and victories in 10 of its final 11 contests.
“A lot has to be said about our goalkeeper, Ben Richter, just a sophomore, Garrett Ritterhaus, another sophomore, Wes Russ, the lone senior in the back who really did a super job keeping things organized,” continued Muczynski. “You’ve got Stuart Russ back there, (he’s) just a freshmen. It’s a group of defenders (who) work so hard as a group. This was a great team effort. We don’t have a bunch of superstars.”
Muczynski, who took over the Avondale soccer program in 1993-94, knew he had a special group this season — and the group did not disappoint, winning seven games in the postseason, including six by one goal each.
“I said all season long that this is a special group,” smiled Muczynski. “This group could make a run. Anyone watching us can see that we are not the most physically imposing team. But we scrap and fight in the end. To me, that is what Avondale is all about. We work hard and fight, give all of our effort.”
Putting consistent pressure on the Lakers’ defense throughout the second half, Avondale picked up the restart from just outside the penalty box on the left side which led to the game-winner. Swanson’s kick went perfectly in front of the goal and Russ was there to tap it home past Spring Lake goalkeeper Harry Kriger.
Kriger finished the game with 10 saves for the Lakers, while a defender also had a save for Spring Lake.
Moments after Avondale’s Garrett Ritterhaus cleared a shot off the line by Spring Lake’s Alec Stahl, the Yellowjackets marched down the field and tied the game with 30:34 to play. Erik Koberstein’s long throw in into the penalty box was volleyed into the net by senior forward Joe Davison.
Avondale kept coming at Spring Lake in waves. The Yellowjackets outshot the Lakers 18-17 for the game, including 13-9 with shots directly on frame, and had a chance to go up when Davison’s shot from three years out was cleared off the goal line by Spring Lake’s Kyle Kendall.
“Tough fate but when we look back at this we’ll be proud of the season that we had,” offered Spring Lake coach Jeremy Thelen.
Spring Lake (23-2-0) carried play throughout stretches of the first half and with the wind at their backs, the Lakers scored first with 4:06 left in the first half. Spring Lake, which came into the contest outscoring the opposition 117-13, took the 1-0 lead on a restart, where senior forward Tanner Berg headed in a cornerkick from junior Austin Garbis.
The Lakers had ample opportunities to score, as chances were consistent for both sides throughout the contest, but would not find the back of the goal again. Richter had eight saves for Avondale (18-5-2).
Avondale’s pressure and speed caused problems for Spring Lake.
“They pressured a lot,” said Thelen of Avondale. “We had a lot of fouls that put us in a bad spot. They came at us hard. We had our chances to score down on the other end, too. They deserve what they got. Our guys played great, played tough for 80 minutes. They deserve better than this.”
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