MEDINA — Austin Schweppe hadn’t started since midseason but made the most of his start Wednesday night.
The senior had a goal and an assist as Medina’s boys soccer team locked down Brunswick 2-0 in a Brunswick Division I District semifinal in front of a pack crowd at Medina Memorial Stadium.
More important than the three points Schweppe pocketed, the midfielders helped the Bees (9-1-8) hold down an explosive Blue Devils attack and earn a bid to the title game for the third season in a row.
Medina will take on rival Copley, which defeated Green 3-1 in the other semifinal, Saturday night.
“It’s awesome,” Schweppe said. “Everyone just came out with great energy. We were all just pumped for this because Brunswick is a big rival, and from the start we were just on.”
As the Bees have done all season, they made it downright difficult for Brunswick (9-5-4) to get much of anything going.
With Schweppe and Jared Vidika, Austin Horvath, Tommy Lear and Adam Hocevar forcing the Blue Devils to keep the ball away from their outside players and the Medina backline cleaning up everything else, the Bees picked up their 14th shutout of the season.
“It was a complete performance from top to bottom,” coach Mark Malikowski said. “We’ve played some good games this year and some not-so-good games, but we picked a good time to just play complete.
“From creating scoring chances, being absolutely dominate in the middle of the field, sound in the back and Dean (McNeil) making all the routine saves, so top to bottom I can’t remember a game as completely as good as this one.”
The Bees were rewarded for that effort late in the first half, as Schweppe played a through ball to Aaron Liezert on the run and Liezert fired a shot from a step inside the penalty box past freshman Gavin Leindecker (9 saves) for a 1-0 lead going into halftime.
Schweppe stepped up again midway through the second half, as he and Andrew Steidl put together a series in which they had five straight shot attempts before Schweppe was able to poke in a 2-foot shot.
“If I would’ve missed that, I would’ve flipped,” Schweppe said. “It was just all a blur. I was just trying to get any foot on it, so luckily I got it in.”
The effort wasn’t lost on his coach.
“He got that start tonight and, boy, did he deserve it. He made the most of his chance,” Malikowski said. “Defensively, he was the difference up top. Pressure on the ball, he created a lot of turnovers in the first half, which led to some chances, so to have him be rewarded with a goal that was nice. He was a difference-maker on the field.”
Medina had 17 total shot attempts, including 11 on goal, while surrendering just five tries — three on frame — by the Blue Devils. Each of the cracks on target were gathered easily by McNeil, who moved tied the school’s all-time shutout record with 20 over his two varsity seasons.
Brunswick’s best look came in the closing 10 seconds of the first, when Alex Becka touched a ball that McNeil was able to stop despite losing his footing in the muddy grass, which flustered a Blue Devils squad that plays the majority of its games on FieldTurf.
In the end, the Bees were able to hold down talented seniors Jesse Marinaro and Michael Zorij, who combined to score 23 goals this season.
“They were the better team tonight, but the conditions didn’t make it easy.” said Blue Devils coach Ben Dotson, who led the school to its most wins since 2008. “We’re definitely a possession-based, press team that’s aggressive, and we just couldn’t get anything going.
“With the way we’ve been playing, it’s been so easy to get the ball wide to Jesse and Michael, but we didn’t do a good job in the first half of sorting out our defensive marks, and it was difficult because we didn’t have the ball.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.