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EVANSVILLE — It took the No. 1 team in the nation to bring down Columbus North’s hopes for a second consecutive boys soccer state title.
Avon, ranked No. 1 in the country by MaxPreps.com, scored in the 70th minute to take the lead and held on for a 3-2 win Saturday afternoon in the Evansville Harrison Semi-State semifinals.
The Bull Dogs were ranked No. 2 in the country and No. 1 in the state in Class 2A, while the Orioles were No. 2 in the state.
“We knew it was going to be a test,” North coach Andy Glover said. “Avon is a good team, and the boys tried their best to play our brand against a good team. If we play that team nine more times, it’s going to be a one-goal game either way. It’s a game of moments, and they capitalized on theirs, and one or two got away from us.”
The Bull Dogs (19-1-1) struck first in the 12th minute when Riley Belding scored off a throw-in from Brayton Thornburg.
Avon (21-0-1) tied in on a free kick by Quinton Bridegroom in the 19th minute, and the game stayed tied at 1-1 until halftime.
The Orioles took the lead on a goal by Jonathan Kopp in the 52nd minute. The goal came while one of North’s starting defenders, Hugh Hamill, was in the locker room receiving medical attention.
“We had to shift gears a little bit and patch some things up in different ways and shape it a little bit different,” Glover said. “That made things a little bit difficult for us today.”
The Bull Dogs tied the game 2-2 in the 64th minute when Andre Abedian headed in a free kick from Belding.
Avon went ahead for good in the 70th minute when Bridegroom scored off a corner kick.
North looked like it might tie the game again with just over 5 minutes remaining, but Ethan Smith’s header in the box was saved. It would be the last big chance for the Bull Dogs.
“It’s games like that and teams like this that keep me in coaching,” Glover said.
“Columbus North is well coached,” Avon coach Phil Schmidt said. “They’re the defending champs, and they played hard, too. We’re very fortunate to come out with the win, but what a great game and a great environment.”
The Bull Dogs out-shot the Orioles 10-9 and put six shots on goal to five for Avon. North’s Matt Verplank recorded two saves.
“We definitely represented our school and town well,” Belding said. “We gave it our all. Everyone played great. They were a good team, and we were prepared. Sometimes, it doesn’t go the way you want it to.”
The loss brought to an end a season in which the Bull Dogs repeated as Conference Indiana, sectional and regional champions.
“We had a good regular season, but our goal was to win a state championship, and unfortunately, that didn’t happen,” Belding said. “I wouldn’t say it’s as successful as I wanted it to be.”
“As a coach, I’m exceptionally pleased for the team and the team’s accomplishments,” Glover said.
“What I hope that they remember is the lessons they’ve learned throughout the course of the season and that nothing’s going to be given to them. Hard work and smart work and a lot of determination is going to put the boys where they need to be in life.”
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