MILLBURY — It is not very often that a soccer team can play a top rival to a scoreless draw and celebrate.
That is what Eastwood is doing, celebrating, after the Eagles and Lake played to a 0-0 draw on the Flyers’ grass pitch Thursday.
Not because the Eagles and Flyers tied, since Eastwood had already beaten the Flyers once (1-0), but because the tie was all the Eagles needed to claim an outright Northern Buckeye Conference championship.
Eastwood is 13-0-2 overall and 8-0-1 in the conference heading into its final regular season game at Genoa Saturday.
Lake is 8-4-3 and 5-2-2 heading into its final regular season game at Woodmore (11-3-1, 7-2) Saturday.
Woodmore was still hopeful for a co-championship until Lake and Eastwood’s tie, but now all is said and done. It is Eastwood’s fifth straight NBC championship.
“Our senior class has won the NBC all four years — they don’t know any different than to be NBC champions. Cool for them,” Eastwood coach Laura Davidson said.
“Obviously, we wanted to win tonight. They are not excited as they will be in a couple days when they reflect on it. They are kind of bummed out that we couldn’t put one or two goals in.”
Cross, who was previously an assistant under coach Megan Rutherford, took the helm this year knowing what the expectations were.
“It’s exciting for our group of seniors,” Cross said. “That was my goal from the beginning of August when we met as a team. That was the biggest thing is we want to keep the NBC title.
“And that was a tough run. Lake has a great team this year and Woodmore has a great team this year.”
Eastwood senior defender Kayden Firsdon is one of those seniors who knows nothing but championships, and she wanted to keep the streak intact.
“I know personally for me it was my top goal and I know for a lot of girls who have been here for the past couple years, that was our top goal as well,” Firsdon said.
“We just made sure that we influenced that on the people coming in.”
Senior midfielder Hannah Montag said the issue for the five seniors was finding a way to replace a talented 2022 senior class that set the tone.
“We had a lot of depth last year,” Montag said. “We lost a little bit of depth, and it makes it harder for us, but it also makes our wins and our games a little more rewarding because we are working for it, and that feels good.”
Eastwood certainly had ample opportunities Thursday, outshooting Lake 18-5, including 13-3 in shots on goal.
But Lake coach Don Jablonski said his team did what he asked them to. He felt the Eagles had only one solid chance to score, but sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Tobias stepped up.
“It’s small steps. It was a good game. Again, we did not get a whole lot of shots — something that we are still working on,” Jablonski said.
“I was proud of the way we responded. We had a plan and we somewhat stuck to it — it was not to allow them to score a goal.
“They can’t score, they can’t beat us, and we did well. They didn’t get many chances — they only had one real good chance, and the keeper came up big.”
Eastwood also had seven corner kick opportunities to zero by the Flyers, Lake was forced into 22 goal kicks (and punts) to Eastwood’s three, and a relatively clean game saw 15 fouls, including nine by Lake and six by Eastwood.
Tobias had 13 saves, and Eastwood sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Jensen was likewise up to the task with three saves, even though she missed eight minutes of play in the second half.
The Eagles had a strong wind to their back the first half, outshooting Lake, 8-0, but most of the first 15 minutes were played at midfield until a shot by Montag with 25:30 remaining.
Eastwood junior forward Delaine Zura led the Eagles with eight shots, including seven on goal, and Montag had five shots with just one on goal.
Lake got its first shot on net by junior forward Brianna Braatz with 31:10 remaining in the second half. Braatz had four shots and three were on net.
After the regular season concludes, Lake will host Clyde in the Division II tournament next Tuesday at 7 p.m. If Lake wins, the Flyers will host Maumee the following Saturday.
Jablonski likes his team’s chances in the district tournament.
“It’s a start of a plan playing into the tournament. We have a real good draw, so that’s our main concern now. We can’t do anything about the league,” Jablonski said.
“We played well against this team, we’ve got a good Woodmore team coming up on Saturday, so that’s a good start going into the tournament. That is a tournament builder, and we’ll go from there.”