BRUNSWICK, Oh - This past Wednesday, the Soccer Cats handed the Medina Bees their season’s first loss and punched their ticket back to the OHSAA State Championship game.
The match would be the eighth straight meeting of the two teams in the playoffs, seven being in the State Semifinals. The Wildcats controlled the past four meetings, shutting the Bees out four years in a row. However, the heroic moments and tough battles it took to get by them and the struggles in prior years created a fierce rivalry between the two teams.
The Wildcats entered the match with a record of 15-3-3, coming off of a 2-1 overtime victory over St. John’s Jesuit thanks to a golden goal from Rafa de la Barrera. The Bees entered with a record of 18-0-1, having narrowly defeated the Walsh Jesuit Warriors by a score of 2-1.
As the Wildcats took the first-half kickoff, almost every spectator in Brunswick Auto Mart Stadium expected a gritty, hard-fought, close game. The Wildcats had other plans, as they’d get on the board in only the third minute of the game, scoring the earliest minute they’ve scored in all season.
Nick Mikulec would serve in a right-footed, in-swinging corner kick. It would take a deflection off of Dom Ruggiero, then to Justis Olorunto, then find the chest of David Salukombo, redirecting it into the back of the net. The Cats had seized the momentum and, more importantly, the lead.
The Wildcats would refuse to be complacent with their early lead and continued pushing for a second. They’d break through again in the 17th minute when a long ball from Justis Olorunto found the feet of David Salukombo on the left wing. He’d take on his defender, cut in, and get the ball to the feet of Nick Trivisonno in front of the net, who’d place it in the far corner of the goal.
With everything seeming to go the Wildcats’ way, Medina finally got a golden opportunity to pull them back into the game. After a Saint Ignatius foul in the box, Medina senior Owen Alber would line up for a penalty kick. Wildcat goalkeeper Colin Monroe would await the kick, read his hips and make a diving save. The 2-0 lead remained.
Coming out of halftime, the Ignatius side would look for one more goal to put the game on ice. The goal would arrive 19 minutes into the half, as Nick Trivisonno would play a ball over to sophomore Bryce Ince-Lovelace, who spotted Salukombo on the back post, crossed it to his feet, where he slotted it in for the goal.
The Wildcats would win by a score of 3-0, a dominant showing in a game in which many saw Medina as clear favorites. Their victory earned them a spot in the OHSAA State Championship game for the fifth consecutive year. They take on the undefeated Archbishop Moeller Crusaders on Saturday at 4:00 in Historic Crew Stadium.
The Wildcats seek their fifth straight State Championship victory and claim the program’s 13th title. Moeller will battle for their program’s first soccer State Championship, their second appearance in the Championship, with their first appearance coming in 2018. The Crusaders would lose to Medina 1-0 in overtime.
Moeller is ranked first in the state by the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association and enters Saturday with a 24-0-0 record. The Crusaders have not conceded a goal since their opening match on August 19.