MEDINA — Medina boys soccer coach Mark Malikowski had been waiting to see the defensive pressure he saw from his team Saturday night.
The Bees midfielders proved to be the difference as they took care of St. Vincent-St. Mary 2-0 in front of a packed crowd at Medina Memorial Stadium.
“We trained a lot on getting good defensive pressure on the ball, especially the middle third of the field,” Malikowski said. “It hasn’t been good in the preseason, and that was really good today. Positioning was good. Shape was good. Pressure on the ball was good, and it led to some counter-attacking opportunities.”
Medina held the Fighting Irish to just three shots on goal — all of which were stopped easily by senior Dean McNeil — but it also created offensive chances in the season opener.
Midway through the first half, the Bees cashed in when, after a turnover at midfield, Aaron Liezert played a ball to far corner of the box. Tommy Lear chased it down and used a right-footed chip to the near post for his first career goal.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Lear said. “I don’t want to call it luck, but I don’t know, it just a great goal and I was very excited about it. It felt good to put one away early.
“I’ve been known for a having a good toe-poke, and usually you’re not supposed to hit it with your toe-poke, but it works out for me.”
The Bees had five shots on frame, but their 11 total attempts kept St. Vincent-St Mary’s backline on its heels.
Medina found an insurance goal just six minutes into the second half, when Lear perfectly placed a through ball between the defense that Brandon Hough put away into the opposite corner with his left foot.
“I think our defense played well. We put a lot of pressure on the ball and we stepped as a team,” Lear said. “Our midfielders played really well, and were all over the field chasing the ball and never gave St. V a chance to get a look at the goal.
“It’s always good to get that first win of the season. (There are) a lot of nerves coming into the game, and we didn’t play as good as we thought we should’ve, but it’s good to get a result.”
One of McNeil’s three saves included stabbing the ball out of the air off an Ethan Hagerty shot late in the first half.
The win was only a great way to open the season, but it also was the first in a loaded opening-month schedule that features Firestone, Anthony Wayne, Copley and Strongsville.
“This is by far one of the tougher starts to the year that we’ve ever had,” Malikowski said. “We’ll get a real good feel for just how good we are in two weeks. We have to be successful — hopefully we’re playing well — but we need to have some success, too, so tonight certainly was a key for us.
“Any time you can shut a team out, you give yourself a good chance to win, but everybody defended. It’s one of those good defensive team efforts and everyone played well as a group.”
Senior defensive midfielder Jared Vidika missed the game due to an ankle injury he sustained this summer. According to Malikowski, the All-Gazette selection is expected to be back around mid-September. “It’s been a tough injury for him — hurting both sides of the ankle — and he’s working really hard,” the coach said. “He’s one of those kids that is going to work as hard as he can to get back on the field.”
l Freshman Matthew Evison scored a pair of goals and had an assist as Medina’s junior varsity team cruised to a 6-0 win.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.