MACEDONIA — While Medina’s boys soccer team earned its first trip to regionals since 2007 Saturday with a stout defensive effort, it knows it needs to create more chances offensively to move on.
The Bees had just three shots on goal in the Brunswick Division I District title-clinching 1-0 victory over Highland, but realize if they want to defeat Westlake in a regional semifinal tonight at Nordonia, they have to counterattack more.
“The second half against Highland was not one we would like to relive any time soon,” Medina coach Mark Malikowski said. “We had very little possession, and therefore defended more than we would like to.
We will need to possess the ball more as we enter the attacking half of the field. If we can do this, we stand a better chance of breaking down Westlake’s organized defense.”
That won’t be easy against the Demons, who, like the Bees, have made defense their staple.
Coach Mike Besu’s backline didn’t allow a goal in postseason wins over Olmsted Falls, Avon and Strongsville, and has nine shutouts for the year behind senior goalkeeper Jamie Lackner.
“Westlake is a very good defensive team — both individually and collectively,” Malikowski said. “They do not get beat 1-v-1 very often and put very good pressure on the ball all over the field. We will have to play quickly out of pressure and win the 1-v-1 battles all over the field. If we get chances, we must finish them.”
While Medina’s attack hasn’t been as potent as Malikowski would like, it has found a way to score in the opening minutes and force opponents to play catch-up.
It’s been junior Aaron Liezert doing the damage this postseason, scoring 4:07 into the overtime win over Copley in the district semis and just 4:21 into Saturday’s district final against Highland. Oddly enough, both goals came off feeds from Nate Libertowski, who netted the game-winner in OT against the Indians.
The result was a district championship playing as the No. 3 seed.
“One of our goals every year is to win our district,” Malikowski said. “Having several good teams in our group year in and year out makes that a formidable challenge. To get past Firestone, Copley, and Highland is an accomplishment our boys are — and should be — very proud of.”
This time, the Bees defense will have the task of containing balanced Westlake.
Led by senior Nick Wertman (19 goals) and junior Adam Thompson (10), along with midfielder Omar Salem, the Demons attack can score in a variety of ways.
“While they are solid throughout their roster, two players in particular have stood out for them all year,” Malikowski said. “Wertman is a forward who scores a lot of their goals, and Salem is a midfielder that can take over a game if allowed to impose his will in the middle third of the field. These two players — plus their well-organized defense — are two areas that we’ve spent time preparing for this week.”
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.
WHAT: Nordonia Division I Regional semifinal
WHO: Medina (12-4-2) vs. Westlake (14-3-2)
WHERE: Nordonia High School.
DIRECTIONS: Take Interstate 271 North to state Route 8 exit. Take exit 18 and turn right onto state Route 8. Proceed and take the first left onto East Highland Road. Then turn left on South Bedford Road. Stadium is on the left.