Mike Peticca | The Gazette
MEDINA — If the Medina boys soccer team has figured out the little matter of goal-scoring, there’s no telling how far the Bees might advance in tournament play.
“It’s the perfect time for us to have an offensive onslaught,” Medina coach Mark Malikowski chuckled Thursday night after the Bees posted a surprisingly easy 3-0 win over Archbishop Hoban.
Medina, which has the uncommon record of 7-1-8, had scored just 14 goals in its previous games this season, including three in the last 10 contests. The Bees will play a Division I sectional final on Oct. 19 at Medina Memorial Stadium against Cloverleaf or Firestone.
“We finished tonight, as simple as that sounds,” Malikowski said. “We’ve had games with those chances, but we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. We’re capable of doing it, though.”
Defense, of course, is Medina’s calling card. The Bees and senior goalkeeper Dean McNeil, who has played every minute of every game, have given up just four goals, including one in the last 11 games. They have a team-record 13 shutouts, including seven scoreless ties.
Hoban is 11-3-1. The Knights’ previous losses were to state powerhouses Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy and St. Edward. Hoban had held its first 14 opponents to a combined eight goals.
McNeil cited the season-long excellence of defenders Eric Vinborg, Connor Dease, Ben Case and Jacob Schaefer.
“It feels amazing, personally, to get the record,” said McNeil. “I can’t say enough about our defense.”
McNeil explained his teammates in the back he most easily notices since they’re the closest to him, but the midfielders “deserve just as much credit, too, for the 13 shutouts.”
Medina got its first goal with 17:22 to go in the first half on a header by Aaron Liezert off a precise crossing pass from Schaefer. Liezert was open on the left side about 5 yards out and converted to the inside of the right post. Hoban’s fine senior goalkeeper, Andrew Markowski, had no chance to prevent the tally.
Given Medina’s recent offensive struggles, Liezert’s goal may have helped relax the Bees.
“I think it lifted our spirits a little and got us going,” he said.
Brandon Hough’s team-leading sixth goal upped the lead to 2-0 in the 31st minute. He scored on a breakaway from the middle of the box, drilling his shot inside the left post. Tommy Lear had found Hough running free to get the assist.
“We were confident after Aaron scored and said, ‘Let’s get some more,’” Hough said. “We got that second goal and said, ‘Let’s keep going.’ ”
Austin Schweppe’s goal capped the scoring 3:41 before halftime. Schweppe took a pass from Noah Hastings about 30 yards from the Hoban goal and sped to his score from about 5 yards out using nifty footwork to elude the efforts of Markowski and another Knights defender.
“I was thrilled getting my first goal (of the season).” midfielder Schweppe said. “It was a perfect ball by our center midfielder, Noah Hastings.”
McNeil wasn’t called on to make any difficult saves. Twice in the second half, he reached above his head for routine catches to deny the Knights’ chances to get on the board.
Contact Mike Peticca at email@example.com.