Pavlik rallies Lakeview girls to OT win over Niles

NILES – With the second extra-time period almost over, everything pointed against the Lakeview Bulldogs getting the win.

Originally supposed to be the home team, the Bulldogs were forced to play at Niles’ home stadium, Eastwood Mall Field at Bo Rein Stadium, and watched as the Red Dragons came back three times in regulation before bombarding the Lakeview goal in overtime.

Senior co-captain Alli Pavlik, however, tried to keep the Bulldogs upbeat.

“When (Niles) kept scoring, it was definitely frustrating,” Pavlik said. “Most teams get down, but I told them, ‘This is it. Do it for us seniors. I don’t care if we win or lose, as long as you put every single thing out on that field.’ And they did.”

On one play, Pavlik did just that. The senior dribbled through three defenders, created some space on the left side of the 18-yard box and beat Niles goalkeeper Paige Freel to the near post in the 108th minute to give Lakeview a 4-3 win over the Red Dragons in a Division II district semifinal.

Despite being tailed by multiple Niles (12-5-1) defenders the entire match, the goal completed a hat-trick for the Bulldog (14-3-1) senior.

“She is the focal point of our team,” Lakeview coach Shawn Varley said. “When she’s gone, we have to find somebody that’s going to score 42 goals and be that go-to person, but for right now, it’s her, and it has been her for the last four years.”

Up to that point, a senior on the other sideline, Gabby Infante, overshadowed Pavlik and Lakeview, recording a hat-trick in regulation.

A co-captain, Infante gave the Bulldog defense fits throughout the entire match, even during overtime. She had multiple great goal-scoring opportunities, including a shot that went off the post and three other shots on net.

The Red Dragons had another shot that went off the bottom half of the crossbar but didn’t cross the goal line in overtime, as Niles peppered the Lakeview goal for nine shots on net.

“Gabby’s been our starter and go-to player for four years,” Niles coach Jennifer Mease said. “She didn’t want this to be over, and she played like it. The team was behind her 100 percent.”

While Niles missed some opportunities, Lakeview goalkeeper Miranda Meffe played a big role in keeping the Red Dragons from recording the golden goal.

The freshman stopped seven shots in extra time, with many shots coming at her from dangerous spots and hit with precision. She totalled 13 saves throughout the match and earned praise from both Varley and Pavlik.

“I’ve played with a lot of high-pressure teams before,” Meffe said. “I knew that high school was going to be like this, but it’s a little bit different than I thought. It is a lot of pressure, and it’s been fun.”

Now, Lakeview moves on to face the first-seed Canfield Cardinals in the district final. Varley said he wanted to enjoy the win against Niles for one night before thinking about Canfield, but he said he and his players know it will be a tough task to win in Canfield on Thursday.

“They’re what every program around here wants to aspire to be,” Varley said. “Year in and year out, they’ve got some of the top players at every single position. We’ve got to play almost a perfect game in order to beat them.”