August 31, 2014

Medina
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Boys soccer MVP: McNeil used steady approach to smash records

Medina senior Dean McNeil is the 2013 Gazette MVP for boys soccer. (GAZETTE PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY RON SCHWANE)

Since the time Dean McNeil was a freshman, the Medina goalkeeper has had the school’s shutout records on a simple whiteboard in his bedroom.

After having just six shutouts to his name entering this season, McNeil never erased the numbers or gave up on his goal. When he posted shutouts in 10 of his first 12 games, he started to believe them was not as impossible as he once thought.

McNeil not only shattered the school record for shutouts in a season and a career, he left a legacy that will be tough for the next keeper to match after earning Gazette MVP.

“This was a dream season,” he said. “I didn’t see myself having 15 shutouts, and lot of the credit goes to the backline in front of me.

“I didn’t think it was going to happen (after last season), but I kept what I had written down, and when we started (the shutout streak), I knew I had a chance. More importantly, I wanted our team to be considered one of the best ever.”

McNeil set a new standard for his play between the posts in helping the Bees win the Brunswick Division I District for the second straight season and advance to the regional finals for just the third time in school history.

“Sitting back and thinking about it, getting out of the moment, you just realize how amazing this season was for the defense and from a goalkeeping standpoint,” Medina coach Mark Malikowski said. “He was huge. To give up seven goals in 21 games is just amazing.

“We knew he could have a special year with as well as he played last season, but this was a surprise.”

How good was McNeil?

The athletic 6-foot-2, 190-pounder went an eye-popping 711 minutes without giving up a goal, earning him first-team All-Ohio accolades along with a host of other individual trophies.

In all, he posted a 0.33 goals-against average while recording 15 shutouts to break the school’s season mark of 12 and career with 21 to shatter the career record set by Matt Koch, who accomplished the feat in three years as opposed to McNeil’s two.

What made the feat even more impressive was the fact Medina’s offense struggled for most of the season, leaving McNeil and backline’s play even more important than would be noticeable by the casual fan.

“It didn’t put any more pressure on the defense because we were confident in our abilities,” said McNeil, who saved 94 of the 101 shots he faced. “We just went about our business. If we didn’t score, we knew the next game we would pick it up. We never felt that if we gave up a goal we wouldn’t have a chance to win. That’s the mentality we kept.”

They responded with an eight-game shutout streak, which included five of the team’s seven scoreless draws. The Bees lone loss in that stretch came to Hudson.

The streak is tied for eighth on the state’s unofficial list and McNeil’s season total for goose eggs is tied for 11th.

His play resulted in a boost of confidence that carried Medina to a postseason run in which McNeil played with a torn meniscus the final two games.

“His consistent play during that time was so amazing,” Malikowski said of the shutout streak. “Going into every game, we knew we have a chance, and even when we struggled to score, our confidence didn’t change.”

It was a consistency that came through McNeil’s simple goals each game to not try and do too much.

“Aside from my personal goals, every game I wanted to make the plays that I’m supposed to make,” he said. “I didn’t want to try and do too much and make a mistake … just play solid.”

Now it will be McNeil’s name that future goalies will write down and strive to beat.

McNeil is OK with that.

“When I was in seventh and eighth grade, I would come to games and look up at the record board and see Koch’s name,” he said. “I’m glad I can be some motivation for some future goalies like those guys were for me.”

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.