August 20, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy with thunderstorms
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Bees are back on top in soccer

Medina soccer is back.

Well, it actually never left, but the 2012 season was a special one for the boys and girls programs, which proved they are back among the elite in Northeast Ohio.

Medina goalkeeper Dean McNeil celebrates a Division I District victory. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JUDD SMERGLIA)

Despite neither team winning a conference crown, both took the experience of playing in the rugged Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division and turned it into exciting playoff runs.

Coming into the season with a mix of veterans and first-year players looking to make names for themselves, girls coach Doug Coreno and his staff knew the potential of their roster.

The Medina girls, however, went through a little bit of everything at the start of the season, from losing senior midfielder Emily Felton to an ACL injury to having 15 players suspended for two games due to a team rules violation.

Instead of letting the early setbacks get the best of them, the Bees used it as motivation.

After a 4-1 loss to rival Strongsville, Coreno’s squad was 6-5-1 and looking for a spark. Two days later, the Bees played state-ranked Dublin Coffman to a 1-1 draw. They then ran off seven straight victories en route to winning the Brunswick Division I District for the first time since 2009 and reaching the regional final.

That run included some late-game heroics, as backup midfielder Lauren Rafie netted the game-winner to beat Copley 3-2 in overtime, while junior forward Nicole Bennett provided a game-clinching score to break a scoreless tie and beat Westlake in a D-I regional semifinal.

Add a defense anchored by senior Marisa Scullin that was very solid in the second half of the season and Medina was tough.

Despite not getting past state- and nationally-ranked Perrysburg for a shot to play rival Strongsville in this week’s state semifinal, the Bees proved the future is bright.

Unlike the girls, Medina’s boys season started off strong, as the Bees ran off seven straight wins to open the campaign. Medina, however, had won just two of its last eight games heading into the postseason.

That’s when the Bees caught fire. After a 2-0 triumph over Firestone to open the tournament, they were matched up with rival Copley.

The Bees and Indians are hardly strangers. It doesn’t matter if it is the regular season, the playoffs or even a summer league game, the teams do not like each other.

After dropping a heartbreaker in a shootout with the Brunswick D-I District championship on the line a season ago, Medina was ready for the matchup in the district semifinal round.

The Bees made the most of the rematch, as senior Nate Libertowski scored on a penalty kick in OT to lift the team into the district title game for the second year in a row.

This time, Medina was able to hoist the trophy for the first time since 2007 thanks to a stout defensive effort and an early goal by Aaron Liezert.

While the team dropped its regional game with Westlake, it was quite a job by coach Mark Malikowski and his staff to bring back a program that won just 13 games in the two seasons following its last regional appearance. The Bees now have 33 victories over the last three years thanks to a strong group of veterans.

The rest of Medina County had a solid season as well. From Highland’s boys reemerging as one of the top programs in the area with a 14-win season to Buckeye’s boys winning the outright Patriot Athletic Conference crown, local soccer has been solid all the way around.

On the girls side, Highland posted 11 victories and advanced to district play for the first time in more than a decade, while Buckeye won the PAC Stars Division after a one-year hiatus.

Toss in another strong year by Wadsworth’s girls, who earned the first state ranking in school history early in the season, along with young teams like Brunswick, which started all sophomores and won eight games, and next year should give a local fans more of the same excitement.

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.