MACEDONIA — A year ago, a dejected Medina boys soccer team walked off the field at Nordonia’s Boliantz Stadium after a regional semifinal loss to Westlake.
Now the Bees are back playing in a Sweet 16 game at Boliantz Stadium tonight against a red-hot Avon Lake squad that is appearing in its first regional in 15 years.
The majority of the current Medina players remember the feeling from last fall and are ready to make up for lost time.
“It’s fitting that we’re back at Nordonia,” Bees coach Mark Malikowski said. “Our guys are incredibly motivated to better that effort and get further.”
Medina (10-1-8) will get that shot against the Shoremen (12-4-3), who not only won their first district championship since 1998 but are riding an 11-game win streak.
After starting the season 1-4-3, Avon Lake is unbeaten in its last 12 contests and has found ways to get it done in the postseason.
In their playoff run, the Shoremen have had a pair of overtime wins, including their district final victory over reigning champ Westlake on an Alex Voloshen goal in the ninth minute of the extra session.
“They just outwork teams,” Malikowski said. “They work hard for 80, 90 and even 100 minutes. They’re defending well and are able to put a lot of pressure on the ball.”
It’s a work-rate the Bees will have to match if they want to advance to the regional final for the first time since 2007.
In addition to All-Ohio forward Voloshen, the Shoremen feature a balanced lineup that can put the ball in the back of the net. Voloshen also spent some time at center back.
“We have to account for where he is at all times,” Malikowski said. “For us, though, it’s a question of if we can match that intensity. Sometimes we have this season and sometimes we haven’t. We have to play with that postseason intensity and we’ll be fine.”
Avon Lake goalkeeper Kane Adams, a 6-foot-2 junior, had four shutouts in October, including back-to-back clean sheets in district wins over Strongsville and Westlake. In the district semifinal against the Mustangs, Adams had five stops in a 1-0 decision.
“Their goalkeeper commands the box really well,” Malikowski said. “He gets to every ball.”
Medina, however, has improved steadily dating back to a 3-0 win over then state-ranked Hoban.
While the Medina’s backline, led by senior goalkeeper Dean McNeil and a talented group of defenders, has been impressive with 14 shutouts, the attack has come alive to post two goals in each of the Bees’ three playoff victories.
That offensive output has a strange resemblance to Medina’s 2007 team, which reached the regional final and came within a goal of getting to the state semifinals.
“No question we’ve turned the corner,” Malikowski said. “I mean, to score three goals after struggling and to do it on the final day of the regular season, that was huge.
“In 2007, every game in the postseason it seemed like we had two goals. This season has that feel to it. If we score two goals, with the way we defend, we’re tough to beat. If we can do that, we have a good chance.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.