EAST LAKE — Two factors conspired to hold East Lake's potent offense in check in its district boys soccer match against Dunedin on Friday.
Dunedin employed a bend-but-don't-break philosophy defensively, which allowed East Lake to control a majority of the possessions and comfortably move the ball through the midfield. The Eagles, however, couldn't solve Dunedin's back line in the final third and were thwarted time after time by the Falcons defenders or goalkeeper Andrew Hindman.
Combined with a stiff breeze blowing directly in its face the first half, the Eagles only managed three shots on goal before halftime and entered the break deadlocked at zero.
With the wind at its back and the Falcons defense showing a few more holes, East Lake capitalized. Senior Brent Merrick scored twice for the first time since a win over Northeast last season to lead the Eagles to a 2-0 win.
"I was wondering are we really getting locked in this badly or is the wind having something to do with it," East Lake coach Sergei Stopek said.
"The wind definitely played a factor I believe."
Merrick played an effective give-and-go with Brett Hummel to free himself in the box. After receiving Hummel's pass, Merrick sent a shot from the left edge of the box that curled just inside the far post for the game's first goal with 25 minutes remaining.
East Lake (9-1-2) continued applying pressure and was rewarded when Merrick gathered the ball 25 yards from goal, dribbled through the heart of the Dunedin defense and slotted a shot past Hindman to put the game out of reach.
"My man Cameron Coughlin hit a little layoff," said Merrick. "I dribbled straight through and got a little lucky with some of the bounces to finish it off."
Dunedin (2-4) only managed three shots on goal total but was in the game until Merrick's second goal.
"(Dunedin's) a team that's trying to show that they can play," Stopek said. "Today could have been one of those days where maybe they break through, but we were determined to grind it out and do what we can to pull out a victory."
Earlier in the night, the East Lake girls team outshot Dunedin 14-1 to post a 3-0 victory.
Amanda Byrne latched onto a cross on the back post in the fourth minute to give East Lake (6-3-1) an early lead.
Kendall Fordham scored just before the break to make it 2-0 Eagles at halftime, and Stephanie Ferro's goal with 15:30 left sealed the win over the Falcons (3-7).