BRUNSWICK — With all 11 starters returning, Brunswick girls soccer coach Scott Ward knew the possibility for his team to have a breakout year was strong.
After clinching a share of the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division title last week and recording impressive victories over Copley and Medina, the Blue Devils earned the top seed Sunday at the Brunswick Division I Sectional/District tournament seed meeting.
“At the beginning of the season, we talked about potential and this team has quite a bit of talent,” said Ward, whose team will await the winner of Wadsworth and Akron Garfield in its sectional opener Oct. 17. “During the season they showed that, but now we start all over again against any of those teams like Wadsworth, Copley, Medina, Highland that can beat us.”
The Blue Devils (10-1-3) received every vote except one in the balloting, while Medina (8-2-3), Copley (9-4-1) and Wadsworth (10-3-1) rounded out the top four.
The bracket sets up a possible rematch between Brunswick and the Grizzlies in the second round. The first meeting ended in a 2-2 draw last month — a decision that coach Paul Williford didn’t hesitate on as opposed to taking one of the first-round byes.
“I would rather not be on the road for multiple games, and if I can get through one and have home-field advantage, that would be to our benefit,” he said.
After a bitter 3-0 loss to rival Strongsville, Medina earned the third seed and will open against Wooster in Oct. 15 sectional final.
No matter where the Bees were placed on the bracket, they know every game is a challenge.
“We’re pleased,” Medina coach Doug Coreno said. “We thought we would be the No. 2, but there are 5-6 teams in this district who have a legitimate shot at winning this thing.”
Despite beating the Grizzlies last week, Highland was voted behind its Suburban League rival by a 7-3 margin, leaving coach Gina Fox with a bitter taste.
The Hornets still earned a sectional bye, with Wadsworth opting to play a first-round game on the other half of the bracket, and will see either Green or Firestone on Oct. 17.
“I’m very frustrated right now,” said Fox, whose team is 10-3-1 and is ahead of the Grizzlies in the SL standings. “I feel just disrespected across the board, but I also feel like some of the coaches may not have been aware of the fact (we beat Wadsworth). I talked to one coach and he apologized and said he wasn’t aware.
“It was a huge win for us and granted, Wadsworth plays a tough schedule, but when you go head to head, it’s the same thing as when you look at Brunswick and Medina.”
In the boys D-I meeting, the county teams also fared well with four of the five squads earning a top-six seed.
Medina’s boys lost the top-seed by three votes to Copley — a team it beat 2-0 earlier this season. The Indians (9-4-1) have won five of their last six games, including beating the No. 2-ranked team in the state, Jackson, last week.
The Bees (6-1-7) will await the winner of Cloverleaf (1-10-2) and Firestone (10-4-1) in an Oct. 19 game. The Colts and Falcons will play in Westfield Township on Oct. 16.
“We beat Copley, so it’s tough to have them ahead of us,” Medina coach Mark Malikowski said. “But their playing really good soccer right now, so it’s not as if they’re not deserving.”
Brunswick (7-4-3) and Highland (8-5-1) earned the third and fourth seeds, respectively, while Wadsworth (8-5-2) was sixth.
First-year Blue Devils coach Ben Dotson was pleased with the seed, especially with the even records of each of the programs that were voted for the third through the seventh seeds.
“It’s a good sign of respect, because the last couple of years we’ve been on the down in the bottom half of the bracket,” he said. “It shows that if you play quality teams, beat quality teams, people show that respect when you get in the postseason.”
Brunswick will battle the winner of Barberton-Wadsworth on Oct. 19. If the Grizzlies can get past their first-round opponent, it will mark the third straight year the two county teams meet in the postseason.
On the top half of the bracket, Highland will host Green or Ellet on the same night. The Hornets recently beat the Bulldogs 3-2.
Buckeye’s girls narrowly earned the second seed despite a 12-1-1 record. Their lone loss was to state-ranked Hoban, which earned the top seed.
After taking the bye, third-seeded St. Vincent-St. Mary jumped on the Bucks quickly for an Oct. 16 sectional final at Buckeye.
“We would’ve probably seen them in our second game anyways,” said Bucks coach Bud Roberts, whose squad edged the Irish for the No. 2 seed by just two votes. “I was glad to get the seed though and it’s an honor.”
Cloverleaf (4-10) will travel to Triway on Oct. 14 for its sectional opener on the top half of the bracket. Coventry awaits.
Over at Rocky River, the Buckeye boys received the fifth seed and will host Vermilion on Oct. 15. A win and the Bucks (12-2) will travel to Firelands to avenge their lone Patriot Athletic Conference loss of the season.
“There are a lot of quality teams in our district, so it’s going to be an exciting next couple of weeks,” first-year coach Dan Collins said.
Still searching for its first win of the season, Black River was the No. 11 seed and will travel to Norwayne on Oct. 14 in its sectional opener. The game, whose winner will take on fourth-seeded Loudonville, will be played at 4:30 p.m. due to Norwayne’s field not having lights.
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.