July 25, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Medina bedevils the Demons

BRUNSWICK — Medina’s boys soccer team wanted to make quick work of Westlake in the Findlay Division I Regional semifinals.

But the Bees didn’t think it would only take 88 seconds.

The first minute and half told the story Tuesday as Medina downed Westlake 2-0 in a game played at Judy Kirsch Field.

With the clock reading 38:32 of the first half, all of the momentum swung to the Bees (16-3-1).

Medina senior Nate Vidika served the ball on a corner kick to defender Jordan Clark, who headed it toward the net on what looked liked a sure score.

The side judge saw something different, however, which changed the way the Demons (12-5-3) had to play the rest of the game.

Junior defender Lee Grossman committed a handball in the box, why by rule, results in a red card and an automatic ejection.

“Off the corner kick I headed it down, he just bent down and picked it up,” Clark said. “You could tell he regretted it.”

And so did Westlake, which had to play a man down for the final 78 minutes on the infraction that gave the Bees a penalty kick.

Vidika took the kick and fired it past goalkeeper Tim Hipskind to give Medina the early lead.

“For them, it definitely took the wind out of their sails,” Bees coach Mark Malikowski said.

“We talk often about getting an early goal for our defense, but to do so in 90 seconds and see a guy get tossed … you have to give Westlake credit for not folding up shop.”

The critical handball helped propel Medina into its first regional final since 1999, but it was not an easy trip as Westlake never stopped coming at it.

“We still had to play with the same intensity … it’s the postseason,” Clark said. “That (play) took a lot out of them, but they regained it.”

Medina struck late in the first half with an insurance goal they needed from sophomore Clay Febus. He took a cross from Lupica for his first career goal.

“We feel if we can get two in, we’re tough to beat,” Malikowski said. “It really makes our bench think that we have to really screw up to not get out.”

With the man advantage, the Bees were able to control the midfield and their standout defense was able to hold the Demons to just one shot on goal, a ball late in the second half that was calmly gathered by goalie Kevin Mahin.

Medina’s back four helped record its 10th shutout of the season. The Bees have only allowed 10 goals in 20 games.

They also are riding a postseason streak that has included wins over rivals Strongsville and Wadsworth — the latter being the only team to beat them.

“It’s been crazy,” Lupica said. “But its also exciting … we all think we can do it.”

Malikowski added: “We’re confident right now and we should be, we’ve played well and won a lot of big games. I like the feel of things right now.”

The fifth-year coach’s squad will now do battle with Sylvania Northview, which outlasted Findlay in a shootout for the right to play Saturday in the Final Four.

And the Bees coach feels that it couldn’t happen to a better group of kids.

“It’s such a quality group of kids,” Malikowski said. “It’s been a great season this year, since the start of the postseason, I feel they deserve it.”

About Liz Sheaffer