BAY VILLAGE — Throughout the course of the regular season, Medina’s girls soccer team played some of the best competition the state had to offer.
Preparing for explosive teams like Magnificat, which the Bees will face tonight at Bay High School in a Division I regional semifinal, is the reason why.
Whether it’s up top or from the center midfield, the Blue Streaks (14-4-1) have been putting the ball in the back of the net at a high rate, which has helped them advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007.
The Bees (13-3-3) have seen talented strikers and highly skilled middies before and will be ready for the challenge.
“Most of the teams we play during the season have 5-6 high-quality players, so this is nothing new,” Medina coach Doug Coreno said. “Mags has a lot of talent, but so do we. It’s going to take a solid team effort.”
The Bees, who are playing in back-to-back regionals for the first time since 1997-98, have found a way to get the job and have been picked up the pace.
Magnificat, however, has overcome three losses in its final four regular-season games to dominate postseason opponents Avon Lake, North Olmsted and Westlake by a combined 13-0 score.
It has done it with a solid possession game and a deep roster. More importantly, the Blue Streaks aren’t afraid to take it to opponents.
“They’re a very offensive-minded team,” Coreno said. “They do a lot of things and are dangerous in the attack, so we need to be ready.”
Forward Natalie Coury has led the charge with 14 goals and 12 assists and is fresh off a hat trick in Saturday’s 6-0 district final win over Westlake. Combine her explosiveness with the crafty play of center midfielder Jaycie Brown (16 goals, 4 assists) and Magnificat has been nearly impossible to slow down.
Despite her 5-foot stature, Brown has a knack for winning the ball in the air, according to first-year coach Gretchen Micklitsch, and played for the Cleveland United team that won the Under-17 National Championship last summer.
“They have a couple of very active forwards and some skillful playmakers at center mid,” Coreno said. “A lot of their players like to go 1v1, but they are just a well-balanced team. We will have to be on our ‘A’ game.”
Another midfielder, sophomore Alyssa Baumbick, is used everywhere from in the center of the pitch to the backline, depending on the opponent, while defender Page Rombach had overcome a broken collarbone in the preseason and a knee injury earlier this month to return to the lineup.
“Our goal is to take them out of their comfort zone,” Coreno said. “More than look for their weaknesses, we try and look what they do well and take that away, and if you can do that, it becomes difficult.”
The teams will meet on the field at Bay, where Medina hasn’t played at since winning its regional semifinal in 2009. That year ended in the Bees marching to the state championship.
While it will be another 10 days before the world knows how this year’s Medina team stacks up, Coreno knows the juggernaut schedule it plays has it ready for anything.
“We treat every game during the course of the season as a big game, and we do that to get ready for these moments,” he said. “That’s the reason for playing the schedule we do, so we’re not shell-shocked during a pressed situation.
“It’s going to take a solid, unified team effort. (That’s) something we do well.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.