Photo by Kyle Niermann
(TIFFIN, Ohio) – Before the season started, there was a feeling there was something magical about this year's Lake Erie men's soccer team. That feeling came to fruition today as the Storm clinched its first G-MAC Championship with a 1-0 victory over Tiffin at Paradiso Fields on Sunday afternoon.
It was the 10th shutout of the season for the Storm (15-1, 11-1) and second consecutive of the Dragons (7-4-3, 4-4-2) after Lake Erie took a 2-0 decision earlier in the season.
"Going into the game against Tiffin, we knew of their quality and knew it wasn't going to be easy, But we wanted to focus on us and what we have done all year long," said Head Coach Louie Rolko. "That hasn't changed. Winning the conference championship is a byproduct of doing all the little things along the way that have led us to this point.
"I think it's a special moment for everyone involved. If you're on the roster currently or an alum or a past coach, this has been the culmination of 25 years of hard work from everybody. We wouldn't be here without the work of the others before us."
Not only was it the first G-MAC championship for the Storm, it was their first in the program's 25-year history.
"We talked about being the first and how special that moment would be, how being the first team to do it would set the standards and expectations for the years to come," added Rolko. "Everybody remembers the first, and for these players to achieve that is something that can never be taken away."
The goal came late in the game as Lake Erie countered a Tiffin corner kick in the 72nd minute. The Storm were attempting to cross in the ball from the right for a header attempt on the far post. Tiffin was able to get to the ball first and attempted to head it out, but Noah Elbana (Fr., Cleveland, Ohio) was Johnny-on-the-spot and sent a laser shot in from 20 yards out just inside the left post.
For Elbana, it was his first goal of the season. He had primarily played in a defensive role with only eight shots taken on the year, but made this one count when it mattered most.
As the score indicated, it was a strongly defensive contest that favored Tiffin's offense as the hosts outshot the Storm 17-7. Of the 24 total shots taken, however, only a combined eight were on goal. Tom John (Jr., Ahrensburg, Germany) recorded another clean sheet with four saves. Tiffin had another shot on goal, but the Storm back line of defenders came up with a crucial team save.
With the top seed in the G-MAC Tournament now squared away, the Storm will turn their attention to the final two regular season home games. First up will be a date with last year's champion Ohio Valley. The Fighting Scots will visit Jack Britt Stadium on Thursday with kickoff slated for 4 p.m.