Vigdor's heroics lift Cavs to state title
Led by a defense that allowed just three goals in six playoff games, Cuthbertson High captured the first boys soccer state championship in the school’s four-year history on Saturday.
Cuthbertson was victorious, 4-1, in the 2A title game.
The Cavaliers, who finished 23-3-2, got a legendary performance form senior forward Thomas Vigdor.
Vigdor was named the Most Valuable Player after scoring two goals in the second half.
“Just the fact that we won states was enough, it’s indescribable,” said Vigdor, who scored five of his 12 goals in the postseason. “Then the fact I was rewarded with MVP of the whole game, there really are no words to describe it. The feeling is so good just being number one in the state.”
Cuthbertson held a 1-0 lead at the break with Michael Proctor scoring the lone goal of the half off an assist from Travis Whitt.
The Jaguars (18-7-3) tied the match midway through the second half before the Cougars pulled away with three goals in a 12-minute span. Vigdor scored off an assist from senior Jason Drain. Obi Collins gave the Cavs a 3-1 lead off a pass from junior Evan Martinez, and Vigdor added insurance with his second goal on Drain’s second assist.
“As soon as Thomas put in the fourth one I knew we had it with only a few minutes left to go,” said Drain.
“That really just sealed the deal. It was like 100 percent we just had to let time run out,” Vigdor said. “With a two-goal lead they could have easily scored and got fired up and scored another but being down three goals we knew they weren’t coming back. It was surreal.”
The victory was not as easy as the three-goal difference makes it look, according to Cavaliers coach Nelson Garner.
“That score was probably not real indicative of the way the game went,” Garner said. “Oddly enough, we actually got dominated at times by them. They were a really strong team and very tough to handle. It was 1-1 with about 15 minutes left to play and we got the second goal, they pushed forward and we were able to get a couple more. They were a tough team and gave us everything we could handle.”
The Cavaliers won four of their six playoff matches by a single goal, including two in overtime.
Drain’s two assists gave him eight for the season. He also scored nine goals.
“It was really amazing and unbelievable,” Drain said. “I really couldn’t believe it even right after it happened. Obviously, I’m very happy about it and I couldn’t have thought of a better way to end my senior season on.”
The Cavaliers lost a load of seniors from the year before, and two of the top players returning were taken for exclusive play with the US Soccer Academy.
“I think it motivated them, it really did,” Garner said. “I think there was an extra level of motivation that they wanted to prove that despite losing really good players to graduation, despite losing players to the academy, they wanted to show that we were still pretty good.
“They set that goal for themselves early on. They almost played at times with a chip on their shoulder which I think really helped us. As we continued to have success I think that just grew in their confidence. We didn’t have any star players on this team and that just made everybody look at themselves to prove individually that everybody had to get better. There was no relying on one or two players.”
Drain was one of four returning starters. He and senior defender Bailey Thompson were the only returning senior starters.
Vigdor was a junior varsity player as a senior.
Expectations were lowered on the outside, but the team’s goals remained intact.
“I think it was really significant that we didn’t have one person that was doing all of the work on the team,” Drain said. “It was really a team effort. Because we didn’t have one superstar it really forced everybody to work hard to pick up the slack. It was a more whole unit because of that.”
The Cavs had some growing pains as they were learning to play with each other.
“Our coach kept telling us we had to play as a team because we don’t have a superstar,” Vigdor said. “We just worked together as a team and we came together. Everyone worked hard because they saw their teammates working twice as hard and that made them want to work twice as hard. They didn’t want to disappoint a teammate because they weren’t working as hard.”
The Cavaliers have won four straight Rocky River Conference championships but that streak wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for a deep look inside after dropping a 2-0 decision to Central Academy on Sept. 19.
“Losing to CATA was definitely the turning point of our season. That really motivated us because we didn’t play as well as we thought we should have,” Drain said, whose team went 16-0-1 after that loss. “We were determined not to lose the conference especially my senior year. Everybody put in the work and we came out with the result the second time. That definitely was the turning point in our season and played a part in our run through the playoffs.”
Vigdor said he never could have dreamed of being MVP in the state championship game before the season.
“I would’ve said I don’t think we’re making it to the state championship game to be completely honest,” he said. “We lost a bunch of seniors last year and we had a bunch of doubters, we even doubted ourselves. We just throughout the season proved those wrong and got big play from everyone.”
Drain never expected this either.
“I certainly didn’t think that we were going to win a state championship at the beginning of the year, but that definitely didn’t stop me or anybody else from working hard and giving it our all,” Drain said. “We were just determined to give it our best and I knew it was going to be my final season so I didn’t want to have any regrets at the end of it.”
Vigdor gave up soccer to play football as a freshman, and didn’t get to play varsity soccer until his senior year.
“That’s a cool story,” Garner said. “He came back to the game his sophomore year and for two years he tried to find his way back. He played for the junior varsity his sophomore year and then was very disappointed last year to not make the varsity squad and had to play for the JV. He did so, he continued to get better. This offseason he really pushed himself like I’ve never seen him do. It’s just so cool to see him come from that to the MVP of the state championship game. He was definitely huge for us down the stretch.”