In high school soccer, overtime is "Golden Goal." First team to score wins.
The extra 15 minute period brings with it the possibility of sudden victory. But it also carries the chance of sudden defeat.
The Saint Ignatius varsity soccer team experienced the utter heartbreak of sudden defeat on Wednesday.
The Wildcats lost to the Medina Bees, 1-0, in overtime in the State Semifinal at North Ridgeville High School on Wednesday. Medina's overtime goal brought the 2018 season to a sudden halt for a truly special group of Ignatian men.
Head Soccer Coach Mike McLaughlin '85 addressed his team after the heart-wrenching ending.
"I want to say something to make all of the pain go away," McLaughlin said. "But what you guys don't feel right now is that you'll be linked together for the rest of your lives by what you did. I've been doing this for a long time. There are groups of kids who wear jerseys, and there are teams. You were a team. You're a group of brothers. You will never forget this season. We will never forget this year, especially this group of seniors."
The seniors on the squad – Henry Curtis, Kyle Healy, Bryce Horton, Kory Nekoloff, Alex Pauer, Ryan Brandt, and manager Kevin Cook – led the program admirably and represented the program well. These young men will be thoroughly missed.
The game began at a frenetic pace, with both teams running up and down the field. Each earned chances, though Medina enjoyed the majority of the possession.
Before the game, Coach McLaughlin said that starting strong would be crucial. While the Wildcats could not find twine early, the team did not allow Medina to gain an advantage early.
The Wildcats started to navigate down the field quickly and effectively near the halfway mark of the first half. Nekoloff nearly potted a goal, but the ball bounced just wide of the net. Matthew McLaughlin also helped to orchestrate a nice chance for the Wildcats.
On the defensive end, Medina found a little space, but did not place anything too serious on net at Peter Van Euwen. Austin Zeleznik ensured the clean sheet early on, with a handful of takeaways and several nice clearances.
The ball started bouncing Medina's way as the game surpassed the halfway mark. By the 30th minute, momentum had swung into Medina's favor. The Bees fired a couple of dangerous shots at the net and received a pair of corners. Kudlo thwarted one chance in the 31st minute with a brilliant header and a Wildcat slid in to fire off a clearance away from the Saint Ignatius zone.
The Wildcats enjoyed their best chance of the game to that point soon afterward. Saint Ignatius tabbed a nice free kick into the box, and it was punched away, but not out of harm's way. The ball fell to the foot of Kyle Folds with 7:14 left in the contest. The junior used just one touch to settle the ball before right-footing it towards the net. Unfortunately for the Cats, the ball sailed just wide of the net.
Four minutes later, the Wildcats slotted a ball deep into the box on a promising pass. Horton and Nekoloff both charged forward, but the attempted header missed wide left, not more than two yards off.
Despite close chances from both squads, the half started as it had began, all tied at zero.
The second half began with teetertottering action, as neither squad controlled the tempo. The Wildcats and Bees each tried to slowly march into the box, but with not much luck.
The first significant play of the second stanza occurred in the 47th minute. The referee called a foul on the Wildcats, setting up a free kick from the 30-yard line. Medina looked posed to generate a great chance, but the Wildcats put that to an end relatively quickly.
The Wildcats earned a chance off a setpiece in the 51st minute. On a cornerkick, Matthew McLaughlin sent the ball backpost to a hard-charging Kudlo. The junior headed it wide of the net on the hard-working effort.
Saint Ignatius kept working all over the field. The Wildcats garnered a pair of free kicks and continued to fight on offense. The men of Ohio City did not put away the kicks, but started to take control of possession, passing the ball more calmly and effectively.
Near the halfway point of the half, the Wildcats saw a great chance. Streaking up the nearside wing, Everett Shorey fired a ball off the post. The ball bounced to the Wildcats with an open net, but the attempted shot went high on the team's best chance of the night.
The remainder of the second half saw back-and-forth action. Both the Wildcats and Bees earned chances, with Saint Ignatius having the majority of the play. Another golden chance came with two minutes left in regulation off a corner kick. Nekoloff headed the ball towards the back corner, but the Medina keeper stepped forward to grab it.
The score remained tied at the end of the regulation and into overtime before Medina scored the golden goal.
Just over a minute into overtime, Medina possessed the ball. The Bees sent a sneaky pass into the zone, deflecting off the head of a Wildcat. The ball bounced to the foot of sophomore Gavin Csiszar, who fired it into the bottom left corner of the net.
"They were pressing. They sent a ball in. We cleared it out, but we played it right to a Medina player," McLaughlin said. "He was in the right spot and he scored."
The goal left the Wildcats dejected and stunned at the suddenness and finality of the defeat. The feeling of defeat and the end of the season stung.
The loss will hurt for a long time for the Soccer Cats. However, the sudden end to the season does not change what these young men accomplished.
The Wildcats traveled to Jamaica and returned unbeaten, with a new perspective of the world. The team went to West Virginia for its annual team trip. The Wildcats won the Jesuit Cup. The squad traveled to New Jersey and New York to play two of the best teams in the country, and came back with a win. The Wildcats won 18 games this season, but also won off the field, working hard in the classroom and in the community.
This was not an ordinary group of soccer players. This was an exceptional team and collection of men who will do great things in college and in life.
"Right now, the thoughts are all about soccer. I want to say something to take their soccer pain away, but I'm at a loss for words," Coach McLaughlin said. "I'm proud of who they are and what's important to them. They're great young men. For three and a half months, and for a couple years, the chemistry that existed between these kids at practice and games, it's something that everyone will remember forever. The sting will go away, but what won't go away are the friendships and the brotherhood."