SANDUSKY, Oh - This past Saturday, the Soccer Cats traveled to Cedar Point Stadium in Sandusky to take on the Sylvania Southview Cougars in the OHSAA Regional Final. The Wildcats entered 18-2-0 after beating Wooster by a dominant score of 6-0. Southview entered 15-4-1 after a 4-2 victory over Toledo St. Francis de Sales. The weather was suboptimal for soccer, with gusts of winds up to 25 miles per hour towards the stadium's north end, and it would become an obstacle that the Cats would have to overcome.
The Wildcats would win the pregame coin toss and elect to play with the wind at their backs for the first half. The wind would immediately play a factor, as both teams would come out and struggle to adjust to the swirling gusts that carried the ball every way. The back and forth would continue for more than ten minutes, but in the 11th minute, it would be the Cougars with the first opportunity. Southview Senior Nate Schuele played a ball to Tyler Pawlicki in a dangerous position. Pawlicki took a shot for the far post, but Wildcat goalkeeper Patrick McLaughlin was there to make the save and avert the danger.
On the counterattack from the McLaughlin save, Nolan Spicer would dribble the ball forward and ultimately get shoved over by Southview's Max Miller. The referee would stop the play for a foul. However, both Miller and Zsombor Onodi would continue the play. When the play ended, some pushing and shoving ensued and ultimately, the referee reprimanded both players but did not show a yellow card for the reckless tackle.
Then, on the next offensive possession, Spicer would receive the ball a couple of touches outside of the 18-yard box. He would beat the man guarding him and get in position to win the next man; however, he would get swiped from behind and fall to the turf. However, in the ensuing moments, no whistle would blow and would continue. This would be a recurring theme throughout the game, with Southview fouling Wildcat star player Nolan Spicer repeatedly in hopes of making him a non-factor. Their efforts would be of no avail, however, as in the 18th minute, Owen Sullivan would find a wide-open Spicer on the other side of the box who would put it past the keeper to get the Wildcats on the board first.
The Cougars would not let their one-goal deficit stand for long, as only six minutes after the Wildcats pulled ahead, they would get on the board and equalize. A corner kick from Pawlicki would sail in the wind right to the head of Jackson Topoleski, who scored to tie the game up at one.
Southview's equalizer would not deter the Saint Ignatius side and they would continue to fight for opportunities despite the unrelenting wind. Six minutes after Topoleski's goal, the Wildcats would score a go-ahead goal again. Nick Mikulec would play a deep corner kick to Owen Sullivan, who settled it and took a powerful strike that left the Southview goalkeeper frozen. The Wildcats took a 2-1 lead.
In the second half, the Wildcats would play with the wind blowing against them. This change in conditions for both sides would prove challenging to adapt to, as the game would go scoreless for the first 25 minutes of the second half of play. At the 15-minute mark, however, Spicer would take matters into his own hands. After receiving the ball near midfield, he would take a touch and beat one defender, dribble into open space, beat another defender and then beat another defender just inside the 18-yard box and score.
A genuinely remarkable goal from one of the finest footballers that the program has seen. The goal, which assistant coach Dan Crew '99 described as "like Maradona," would give the Wildcats some breathing room and a 3-1 lead.
No more than five minutes after Spicer's second goal of the contest, he would find his third. After Onodi beat his defender with mesmerizing skills, he would find Spicer in an open space in the middle of the box. Having received the pass, Spicer would fake out a defender and deliver a left-footed strike into the back of the net.
Mikulec would tack on one final goal for the Wildcats, and after Southview's Markus Lepard was handed his second yellow card, they would cruise to a 5-1 victory. Upon their win, the Wildcats would be crowned the Regional Champions. This would mark the 18th time the program has won this award, all coming during Head Soccer Coach Mike McLaughlin's '85 28-year tenure as head coach.
The team will compete in the OHSAA State Semifinal on Wednesday against Medina, a team they have faced up against in the playoffs for seven consecutive years, five of which are in the State Semifinal. The match will be held at Brunswick Auto Mart Stadium at 7:00 p.m.