April 17, 2014

Intermittent clouds

College signing: Bears snare Medina goalie Dean McNeil

MEDINA — Dean McNeil could’ve gone to a host of schools to continue his soccer career.

The 2013 Gazette MVP is coming off the best season ever for a Medina goalkeeper, something that didn’t go unnoticed by college coaches from schools in all divisions.

Dean McNeil

But McNeil wanted a place where he not only could play, but get ready for the next chapter of his life. He found that in Division III Ohio Northern University.

“To be honest, Ohio Northern was the only school that I applied to,” McNeil said. “I want to major in mechanical engineering and that limits some of the schools that I can go to.

“I knew I could go D-II or make a D-I team, but I didn’t want a huge commitment where soccer is everything.”

The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder drew attention from colleges across the state and beyond after helping the Bees to their second Brunswick D-I District championship in as many years and the program’s first trip to the regional finals since 2007.

McNeil did it by posting a 0.33 goals-against average and recording a school-record 15 shutouts this season. He had a school-record 21 clean sheets for his career.

So when he had a shot to join former Medina teammate and 2012 Gazette MVP Nate Libertowski at the next level, the goalie was sold and never honestly considered another program.

“I always told people that I was leaving my options open, but I knew where I wanted to go,” McNeil said.

The Polar Bears are coming off a season in which they went 18-4 and won their third straight Ohio Athletic Conference regular-season crown. ONU went on to capture its fourth consecutive OAC Tournament title and make its sixth straight appearance in the NCAA D-III Tournament.

With four returning goalkeepers from a year ago, all of whom were freshmen, McNeil knows he won’t just be handed a starting spot based on his impressive prep resume.

“I have a reasonable shot at making the first team and starting and I’m confident that I can do that,” he said. “The coaches told me that they’re going to play the best player and age is not the deciding factor, so I know that I will have a chance.”

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