STRONGSVILLE — It’s rare in any sport to have a conference-deciding match in the third week of the season, but the Northeast Ohio Conference is not your typical league.
That’s what’s on the line tonight when Medina, the nation’s top-ranked girls soccer squad, meets arch-rival and 14th-ranked Strongsville at the Ehrnfelt Soccer Complex in Strongs-ville.
While it’s unknown why the NOC schedule-makers set this Valley Division battle so early in the season, Bees coach Doug Coreno expects the two teams to meet again later in the year.
“I never understood why it’s so early in the season, but typically we meet again in the playoffs so from that standpoint it’s not a bad thing,” he said. “You would like to see it as the last game of the season, but it doesn’t bother me when you look at the big picture.”
A season ago, the Mustangs edged Medina 1-0 in the regular season, but were blanked 4-0 in the Brunswick Division I District title game.
Behind the play of for-ward and Virginia Tech recruit Ashley Meier in the midfield, Strongsville is off to a 4-0-1 start this fall — which included a trip to Utah this past weekend for games against East (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Park City (Park City, Utah), winning both games by a combined 14-0 margin. The 5-0 win over East ended that team’s 32-match regular-season undefeated streak.
“They’re as talented as ever,” Coreno said. “They have a dangerous attacking player in Meier and we’re going to have to know where she is at all times.”
Like the Bees, the Mustangs feature a stingy defense with featured backline players Jackie Campo, Nicole Heiser, Chelsea Stalter and goalkeeper Cailyn Moore that has allowed just two goals this season —one to Walsh Jesuit, another nationally ranked team in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 poll.
While Meier will draw a lot of attention, Coreno his team cannot neglect any part of the Strongsville team that has eight players already committed to play college soccer.
“It’s tough to pinpoint one area … they’re just good across the board,” the third-year coach said. “With a lot of teams, you can find weakness, but it’s just a matter of coming out and being ready to play from the opening whistle. They will be a strong test.”
The match will be the second test in the early going for Medina. Last Saturday, the defending D-I state champion Bees had to rally back from a goal-deficit to beat Pickerington North 2-1.
Tonight’s clash should add to the storied Bees-Mustangs rivalry.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Coreno said. “They’re tal-ented, but so are we. It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of this rivalry and we have a lot of respect for Strongs-ville.
“This is another great chapter in the rivalry.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.