AMHERST — With first place in the Southwestern Conference on the line Wednesday night, Amherst and Olmsted Falls showed why they are the top teams in the league and among the top Division I programs in the Cleveland area.
The one thing the Comets and Bulldogs couldn’t do, however, is provide any clarity as to who will be making room for the SWC championship hardware in their trophy case come October.
Amherst’s Lexy Alston scored a pair of goals in the second half but it wasn’t enough because Olmsted Falls also scored two second-half goals as the teams played to a 2-2 draw.
Falls’ Ashley Sandru scored the game-tying goal in the 77th minute.
The result left the teams tied atop the SWC standings at 4-0-1. Amherst is 5-1-1 overall while Olmsted Falls is 7-0-1.
“I knew coming in this was going to be a really hard and great match and that’s exactly what it was,” Alston said. “I think both teams played amazing. This is the reason why we play soccer, for great matches like this one.”
The Comets came out in a 4-1-4-1 formation, moving their halfbacks up on either side of the field to help generate more offense and counter the Bulldogs’ three-forward attack.
Coach Gary Gonzalez’s strategy paid dividends as both Amherst goals came off centering passes from the wing — one by Elley Vorhees and the other by Anna Dudziak — to Alston, who took care of business in front of the net.
“We spent the last few days working on a 4-1-4-1 to get the kids to play to those wide areas and then play a square ball across,” Gonzalez said. “It was nice to see the girls come out and apply what we were asking them to do. That was good.”
Considering Amherst and Olmsted Falls had allowed only four goals between them all season it was not a surprise the match remained scoreless until Alston scored her first goal three minutes into the second half.
Olmsted Falls tied the game in the 63rd minute when Jordan Fusco’s free kick from 25 yards out sailed past the outstretched arms of Comets goalkeeper Ainsley Steele and just under the crossbar.
While Alston’s second goal, which came with only five minutes remaining, looked like it would give Amherst the win, Olmsted Falls had other ideas.
With time running down, Bulldogs senior Mia Colozza sent a free kick into the box where it bounced free and onto the foot of Sandru, who scored to tie it a 2.
“That goal was crazy,” Sandru said. “We really needed that and it was good we finished it. We knew Amherst is always one of the hardest teams in our conference so really this was a good game for both of us. We’ve worked hard to get to this point. We’re happy with the result.”
Olmsted Falls just missed scoring another goal midway through the second half on a ball that was played past the Comets defense but hit flush against the goal post and rolled away.
“One thing our girls have learn to do this season is find ways to keep themselves in games and stretch the field to find scoring opportunities,” Olmsted Falls coach Matt Safar said. “We learned from some of the close losses we had last year and learned how to stay focused. Every time we play Amherst it’s a physical, aggressive game. We were prepared for it to turn into a track meet because they have Lexy Alston up top, who is one of the best players in the state. They’re a great team so this was a big challenge for us.”
Amherst 2, Olmsted Falls 2
GOALS: (OF) Jordan Fusco (63rd minute), Ashley Sandru (77th minute); (A) Lexy Alston 2 (43rd minute, 75th minute)
ASSISTS: (OF) Mia Colozza; (A) Elley Vorhees, Anna Dudziak.
SAVES: (OF) Mackenzie Simon 8; (A) Ainsley Steele 10
SHOTS ON GOAL: Olmsted Falls 12, Amherst 10
CORNER KICKS: Olmsted Falls 4, Amherst 6
FOULS: Olmsted Falls 10, Amherst 9
YELLOW CARDS: (OF) Addison Sandru (57th minute); (A) Hannah Aschemeier (31st minute)