Every time Strongsville and Medina meet on the girls soccer pitch, it’s always a big deal.
This season is no different as the squads have played their way into the state’s top-10 rankings. The No. 6 Mustangs and No. 9 Bees also have their own postseason goals in mind, and both are in the thick of the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division race once again.
The programs will renew their rivalry Wednesday night at Medina Memorial Stadium with the league title, state and national rankings and overall bragging rights on the line.
“It’s crazy. It’s always just a really big game,” Bees starting defender Holly Rhodes said. “I mean, we’re pretty close to each other — a lot of us play on the same teams (in club) — so it’s definitely a huge rivalry to see who can be the best in the area.
“Last year, a couple of Strongsville girls on my club team were like, ‘Oh, we beat you,’ and stuff like that, so we’re just hoping to come out here and try to change that.”
That friendly rivalry is one of the most heated in Northeast Ohio, and this year’s edition promises to provide more memories.
Despite four uncharacteristic losses, including a 3-2 stunner to Wadsworth on Monday, the Mustangs are loaded with talent once again. They are led by midfielder Kelly Novak, who earned the Golden Boot Award at nationals this summer as the tournament’s top scorer while leading Cleveland United to the under-17 championship.
“We’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game,” said Medina coach Doug Coreno, whose team is 5-0-1 in its last six games. “Strongsville’s a great program and they’re as strong as ever. I’ve seen them and they’re very good, as we know, and it’s going to be a great match.”
The Bees are no stranger to tough competition, as they have knocked off previously state-ranked Hudson and battled current No. 3 Dublin Coffman to a scoreless draw in the last two games.
Along with the Mustangs, Medina still has games slated with area powers Holy Name and Massillon Jackson.
“We do this every year and try to play as competitive of a schedule as possible because that’s what gets you playoff ready,” Coreno said. “We want to play the best that the state has to offer, and I think that shows come playoff time. Look at last year. We had four losses in the regular season, but then we were ready for the playoffs and got to the final eight.
“We put this schedule together to get us ready for a playoff run.”
Leading the way
Like any attacking center midfielder, Ohio University recruit Macey Juguilon demands respect from opposing teams. The junior leads Brunswick with eight goals and eight assists.
“Macey does not rely on the title of captain to help lead the team. She competes every practice, every game and every opportunity with 100 percent effort and positive determination,” Blue Devils coach Scott Ward said. “While some players are given the task of beating another team’s best defender or marking their best attacking threat, Macey helps to control our midfield. While Macey is certainly not the only reason for our good results this season, she certainly is a big reason for it.”
Heading into Monday, Brunswick was 5-0-3 since Aug. 28.
Finding their stride(s)
It’s not unusual to see Buckeye’s girls atop the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division standings late in the season. This year, however, the Bucks have done it with a mix of veterans and a handful of rookies that had to fill the cleats of six four-year players that graduated. The combination has worked, as the Bucks sit alone in first place in the division and have won nine of their last 10 games. The other decision was a 1-1 draw with Stripes Division-leading Fairview.
• The Medina boys’ streak of eight straight shutouts will be put to the test this week against Hudson and Marietta.
• The good times continue to roll for Buckeye’s boys, as they have won eight straight games after Saturday’s thrilling 1-0 win over Medina County rival Highland. Midfielder George Rusinko has nine goals during the stretch, while the defense has posted six clean sheets.
• Cloverleaf’s girls will take an eight-game losing skid into Wednesday’s game at Suburban League-leading Copley.
What to watch
While Copley is a game ahead in the SL girls standings, Wadsworth and Highland are battling in case the Indians slip up in the final two contests of the schedule. The Grizzlies are second, while the Hornets are locked with Revere a half-game behind. The county rivals will battle Wednesday at Art Wright Memorial Stadium.
• Wadsworth’s boys are riding a three-game win streak and will take momentum into Highland Stadium tonight against a Hornets team that has lost just once in its last five games.
Just when Brunswick’s boys squad was nearing full strength, it suffered yet another loss last week. Senior Dylan Castro sustained a head injury in the first 5 minutes of a 3-1 loss to Avon Lake. According to coach Ben Dotson, the defender should be back in uniform for Saturday’s non-league game against Willoughby South.
• Sophomore forward Luke Wenneman made his return for Wadsworth in last week’s win over Wooster. The striker had been sidelined since Sept. 10.
The loss to Avon Lake last week was the first for Brunswick’s boys at Judy Kirsch Stadium. The Blue Devils are 5-1 at home and 1-2-3 on the road.
• Speaking of records, Buckeye’s boys and girls are 5-0 away from York Township, while Medina’s boys and girls also haven’t lost on the road with 1-0-4 and 4-0-2 marks.
• Junior Emily Massie scored for the second time this season as Black River dropped a 2-1 heartbreaker to Columbia. Heading into the week, the forward had scored the only two goals of the season for the winless Pirates.
• Buckeye freshman defender Lexie Thomas netted her first career goal in a win over rival Black River.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.