On Wednesday, the Saint Ignatius Wildcats faced their biggest competition yet. For the fifth year in a row, the Wildcats and the Medina Bees were matched up in the State Semifinal. The series between the two was tied 2-2, as the Wildcats took the cake in 2016 and 2019, while the Bees had claimed victory in 2017 and 2018. It was to be a rubber match for the ages between these two sides.
At this stage of postseason play, the Wildcats carried a record of 10-5. After nine of those 10 State Semifinal wins, they went on to claim victory in the state championship. It’s a huge match for the Wildcats, and boy did we get what we paid for.
With an electric atmosphere, and thousands of listeners throughout the United States, the match was ready to begin, with both teams entering with their usual starters.
The match began quietly on the offensive end, but packed with action in the midfield: plenty of passing, defensive prowess, and solid physical plays. After the Wildcats had a couple chances (with some good saves by Medina goalkeeper Ryan Miller), the half ended scoreless between the two sides--a relatively uneventful first half.
Tensions grew as the match continued. Both teams really hit the gas pedal, applying pressure and progressively getting more chances on goal. As the end of the second half neared, something had to give between the two sides.
With the match closing in, with 6 minutes left, the Wildcats went on a proper attacking chance. The ball was played out wide to Junior RW Josip Rimac, who took on a dozen defenders on his journey to the box. Rimac dribbled to the edge of the 18-yard box and fed a ball across to Sophomore Zsombor Onodi, who brought it down, got a touch, and drilled the ball into the back of the net. A huge amount of pressure lifted off the Wildcats with six minutes remaining, but their work certainly was not done.
Shortly after, the Wildcats found themselves troubled by an oncoming attack, headed by Medina senior Gavin Csiszar. It concluded with an absolutely cracking shot with his weak foot when he had a clear path to the goal. Senior Captain Liam Sowell made a gorgeous save, a true game-saving block as the ball went out for a corner. The corner chance came up empty as a few headers forced the ball out of bounds for a goal kick.
After four minutes of action and suspense, the Wildcats would finally seal the deal. The ball was played to Nolan Spicer in the center of the park. He slotted a perfectly-timed through-ball to Onodi once again. Onodi accelerated up the pitch, got into the box, and flicked it up and over the diving keeper, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead with just 1:33 remaining in the match.
Then the whistle blew. The Wildcats had finally won, defeating Medina in the tiebreaking match. Saint Ignatius now plays the New Albany Eagles, a fast-paced team from Columbus, for the State Championship on Saturday at Mapfre Stadium. It should be a class match, with the requisite high expectations. Tune into SIBN for coverage beginning at 6:15 p.m!