MEDINA — Medina’s girls soccer coach Doug Coreno knew that a one-goal lead wouldn’t be safe Wednesday night.
Coreno also knew the first 10 minutes of the second half would decide who would ultimately win his team’s Brunswick Division I District semifinal with rival Strongsville.
The third-year coach was partially right as the second-seeded Mustangs scored four unanswered goals and dominated the entire second half against the top-seeded Bees to advance with a 4-1 win in front of 1,100 fans at Medina Memorial Stadium.
“It was just one of those things where we came out flat in the first 10 minutes and it continued all the way through,” Coreno said.
“We talked about how the first 10 minutes were really going to set the tone for the rest of the match and they jumped all over us getting that goal in the first five minutes … I don’t know, we just could never recover.”
That control by the Mustangs (17-1-1) helped them advance to the district title match for the eighth time in the last nine seasons — this time against fourth-seeded Holy Name, which beat No. 3 North Royalton 2-1 in the other semifinal. The win also helped Strongsville get a little revenge on reigning D-I state champ Medina, which upended the Mustangs 2-0 earlier this season. Since that setback, the Mustangs have won 13 straight.
“This meant a lot,” said sophomore striker Madi Franklin, who scored the game-winning goal with 10:42 left. “They’re our biggest rival. All we thought about was playing them again.”
The Mustangs got that rematch after going on the same side of the bracket as the Bees (13-3-3). Wednesday, they made the most of the second chance.
Despite dominating the game, Strongsville found itself down a goal at halftime before Ashley Meier gave the visitors the much-needed spark they were looking for five minutes into the second half, heading the goal in from Alexis Manoa with 35:08 remaining.
“They gained a lot of confidence from that point on. Their intensity rose and we just dropped from there,” Coreno said of the Meier score. “You have to give them credit. I think it was a lot more about what they did than what we didn’t do.”
From there, the flood gates opened as the Mustangs fired eight of their 13 shots on goal in the final stanza and scored three times in the final 10 minutes.
Franklin’s game-deciding goal came after the varsity rookie took a lead pass from teammate Leah Sandercock and headed it past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Taylor Burke for the score.
After an unassisted strike less than two minutes later from Franklin, Strongsville proceeded to keep firing shot after shot on a Bees backline that allowed just seven goals all season coming into the contest.
Manoa pushed a ball in with no time remaining to ice the game and stun a Medina team that was ranked No.1 in the preseason in a national poll compiled by ESPN Rise.
“You have to give them credit. They came out possessed in the second half. They beat us in every aspect of the game,” said Coreno, whose team didn’t have a shot on goal in the second half. “They spread out our defense. We couldn’t possess the ball and couldn’t get any offense going. We couldn’t match their energy. I don’t know if we did anything wrong, I just think they did an awesome job and you have to give them credit.”
Medina, which was outshot 13-2 on goal and 18-4 in attempts overall, scored late in the fast half on a bullet off the foot of Jillian Graff as the senior fired a strike that ricocheted off the far post.
Despite the four goals posted by the Mustangs, Burke was masterful in goal once again as the University of Florida recruit stopped nine shots, including a pair of diving stops and a leaping stop midway through the second half.
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