CUYAHOGA FALLS — If you knock hard enough, the door will open when you have the best player.
The top-ranked Medina soccer girls team tried and tried to find the net, but very-inspired, third-seeded Wadsworth fought the Bees tooth-and-nail Thursday in the Akron Division I District championship.
Then, as she has done so many times this season, Maria Nelson put Medina on her shoulders in a 1-0 win.
This time, the senior took a slotted ball from Chloe Tesny into the box and beat Jordan Barnhart with 10:50 remaining.
The Bees (17-0-2) moved on to play Solon District champion Twinsburg (19-0) in a regional semifinal Tuesday at Brecksville. The Tigers beat Hudson 2-0.
“She does most everything right,” Wadsworth coach Paul Williford said. “I think we did a good job of frustrating her most of the night. It comes down to one opportunity, and she made a couple girls miss and she was on target. It came down to that play.”
It’s not the first time Nelson has come up huge for the Bees in the postseason.
The Tennessee commit did so the last time Medina advanced to regionals when she scored with 11 seconds left to beat Perrysburg 2-1 in the 2015 Region 2 final.
That’s what you get from Nelson, who has 21 goals and 18 assists this season.
“She’s a special player,” Bees coach Doug Coreno said. “That goal gives her 60 points on the year. I think the team last year was at 36 (Haley Anspach). Maria is just a special player. That’s just the best way to describe her.”
The win over the Grizzlies (11-4-4) also was a return to a level Medina is used to playing at.
The Bees have played in seven straight district finals but found themselves on the wrong end in the last two. They came into Thursday 3-3 in the last six.
The top-ranked team in the state coaches poll finally ran through the stop sign.
“It means so much to this team,” said Katie Neate, who also was on the 2015 state semifinal squad. “This team is really special this year. We really worked hard and really deserved the win.”
Medina did so by taking the best the Grizzlies threw at them. Tori DeLappi made six saves and the Bees’ defense had to withstand a Wadsworth squad that never backed down.
“This is like a monkey off our back,” Coreno said. “Two years ago, we kind of felt like we got the raw end of the deal, had a couple goals called back, lost in penalty kicks to Brunswick. Last year, we struggled against our rival Strongsville, so to get back to regionals last year means everything.”
Next up is a Twinsburg team that is having a dream season of its own. The Tigers have only given up eight goals but enter regionals for the first time. Medina has been there 15 times.
“We just have to come ready,” Tesny said. “We just have to give everything we’ve got. We’ve been given a lot, and we just have to keep giving it back.”
The Grizzlies reached the district finals for the first time since 2011 and will lose four-year starter Barnhart, Elizabeth Talabac, Teddi Farson and Mia Gambaccini but have a strong nucleus coming back.
“I just want these girls to know that they’re going to be a strong team,” Barnhart said. “They’re going to be a good team. They have this bond that not a lot of teams have. They have a solid foundation set to go forward. I want them to know that they are just as good as we are this year and they can push forward and be a great team.”
Medina 1, Wadsworth 0
Akron Division I District Final
WADSWORTH 0 0 — 0
MEDINA 0 1 — 1
M — Maria Nelson (Chloe Tesny), 10:50.
Shots on goal — Wadsworth 7, Medina 8. Corner kicks — Wadsworth 5, Medina 9. Saves — Jordan Barnhart (W) 7, Tori DeLappi (M) 7. Records — Wadsworth (11-4-4), Medina (17-0-2).