COPLEY TWP. — A year ago, Nicole Bennett proved just how dangerous she can be when given a chance.
In the Medina girls soccer team’s season opener at Copley on Monday night, that opportunity came on the senior’s first shot of the game.
One try proved to be all Bennett needed, as her second-half goal stood up as the Bees downed Copley 1-0 in a non-league clash at Infocision Field at Copley Stadium.
“That’s kind of the forte of a dangerous striker — at any given moment they can strike,” Medina coach Doug Coreno said. “That’s what Bennett did. I think that was the first shot of the night on frame and she buried it. It couldn’t have been a bigger goal.”
Like the Brunswick Division I District final between the squads that ended with Medina winning 3-2 in overtime last October, this was a physical, grind-it-out battle.
With less than 13 minutes left, Bennett, who had eight postseason goals a season ago, came through.
“That showed we can finish the limited chances we have,” the forward said. “We’ve learned that you don’t get many opportunities and we did learn to finish those.”
The play started when Hannah Ludwig won the ball at midfield and dribbled to the corner before crossing to a streaking Bennett. From there, the All-Gazette selection drew Indians goalkeeper Beth Moore (4 saves) out of the box and then used her momentum to punch it in with a sliding shot.
“I was wide open and I shot it and placed it,” Bennett said. “I looked up at first at goal and then at Hannah and down to make sure my hips were square. I honestly just hoped for the best from what I saw and looked for the open corner.”
It was a key play for Ludwig, who with two weeks left in last year’s regular season was Medina’s leading scorer before a concussion sidelined her for the rest of the season.
“It all started with Hannah,” Coreno said. “She attacked that backline on the dribble, beat a defender and played a beautiful ball.”
From there, the Bees’ backline finished the job. The group held Copley standout forward Anna Haverchak — she uncorked three shot attempts in the opening minutes of the second half — and her teammates without a clean look for the last 12 minutes.
“That was probably the longest 12 minutes ever,” Medina defender Holly Rhodes said with a smile. “You’re sitting there and we’re all trying to stay back on defense and clearing it, then it’s right back at you. You just have to stay as compact as possible.”
Starting keeper Jordan Reynolds stopped one shot in the opening half of play before Coreno inserted speedy Alina Mille in the second half. Mille finished with two saves, but made a game-saving smother of a loose ball that bounced to the corner of the box with just minutes left.
“I give my kids a lot a credit for their heart and composure,” Coreno said. “Copley’s a great soccer team and they had a lot of incentive to come and play hard tonight. We were kind of lackluster in the first half, but the kids made adjustments at halftime. It was just a good, hard-fought victory. (There’s) no other way to put it.”
Copley athletic director and OHSAA state board of directors member Jim Borchik presented Medina athletic director Jeff Harrison with the Division I boys basketball regional championship trophy from the 2011-12 season. Toledo Whitmer vacated the title after it was determined it had used an ineligible player.
• Behind goals from Taylor Bellomo, Alicia Edmonds and Maggie Willse, Medina’s junior varsity picked up a convincing 3-0 win over Copley.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.