Two titans clashed Wednesday night at Pat Catan Stadium. No offense to Magnificat, Twinsburg, Walsh Jesuit, Brunswick or any other girls soccer team that may stand in their way, but here’s predicting they will meet again Nov. 6 in the Division I state semifinals.
If that does indeed happen, Medina, ranked first in the state coaches poll and fourth in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer.com, and Strongsville, which is second and 12th in the same rankings, will play until a winner is decided.
That didn’t happen in their Greater Cleveland Conference meeting, as the powerhouses battled to a 2-2 tie that left the Bees (9-0-2, 4-0-1) feeling like they had let one slip away and the Mustangs (10-0-2, 4-0-1) wondering what might have been had they played better over the first 66 minutes.
“It feels like we lost,” Medina senior and Tennessee recruit Maria Nelson said after her team blew a 2-0 lead in the final 12:20. “We really feel like we should have won this game, but we’ll be back.”
The Bees, who fell to 6-0-4 in their last 10 meetings with the Mustangs, were on the verge of beating their rival for the first time since Sept. 11, 2010, but an own goal with 2:12 to play left their winless streak at eight-plus years and counting.
The positive side is how well they played early on and, of course, that potential rematch in early November.
“We’re going to see them again in the state semis, probably,” Nelson said. “We want it bad. If we meet them again, I know we’ll come back having learned a lesson from this game.”
Sometimes those lessons must be learned the hard way, but that doesn’t happen too often where Medina and Strongsville are concerned.
We are talking about two programs that, since 1989, have combined to make 19 state semifinal appearances and win six titles, four of them by the Mustangs.
We are talking about programs that, since 1988, have won 30 district championships, a number that no doubt would be higher had they not had to play each other a number of times.
We are talking about programs that, since 1990, have won 32 conference championships — all while competing in the same league throughout.
Most important of all, we are talking about programs that do things the right way, that win with homegrown kids, that have developed phenomenal youth systems, that play intensely yet cleanly and that, above all else, have the utmost respect for one another.
“There is a great deal of respect between us,” Strongsville coach Todd Church said. “Medina has done things the right way. They started soccer before us, and they were the model. We tried to build after them at the start. Now we have our own program. Both programs are unique, positive and full of history.”
That they are, as the Mustangs won state titles in 2011, 2005, 2002 and 1998, while Medina won in 2009 and 1997.
Both teams are stacked again this year, as Indiana recruit Haley Anspach joins Nelson as a D-I college recruit for the Bees, while Strongsville counters with Kayla Wypasek (Northern Kentucky) and Peyton Felton (Memphis).
“These girls play against one another during the high school season and many of them play together in club season,” Medina coach Doug Coreno said. “We have a lot of respect for each other. It’s a very fun rivalry to be a part of.
“A league title is always a goal because you’re playing in a very tough league and against two of your biggest rivalries,” Coreno added of Brunswick. “But at the end of the day, people remember (the postseason in) October and November. A league title is nice, but programs like Medina and Strongsville have much bigger aspirations.”
The ultimate aspiration for both schools is to win a state title, and a meeting in the semifinals would only add to the tons of memories these programs have created over the years.
“There are so many stories from the past that are still told on both sides,” Church said. “That’s why you want to come in and be a part of the next story.”
The most recent story is not only how the Bees took a 1-0 lead when Riley Kerber scored off a Nelson assist with 11:19 left in the first half and how they made it 2-0 when Aliese Pedro scored off a pass from Tori Lyncha with 15:55 to play, but also how the Mustangs made it 2-1 when freshman Coley Sidloski scored off an assist from sophomore Shelby Salle, then mustered a tie when a shot by ninth-grader Libby Majka was accidently headed in by a Medina player.
The only thing that could top this rivalry memory in 2018 would be if these teams were to meet again with a trip to the state final on the line.
“What an atmosphere that would be, but that is too far away to even comment on,” Coreno said. “There are so many teams we’d both have to get by, but, wow, that would be cool. That would be fun to be a part of.”