Katie Neate knew the names that came before her. She also knew the magnitude of the sisterhood she was about to join when she became the center back on the Medina girls soccer team.
A look into the last 10 seasons shows names like Gazette MVPs Lily Menssen and Stephanie Bowman, the University of Michigan’s Janiece Joyner, Ohio University’s Nicolle Varney and three-sport standout Anna Boyert.
“At first I was a little bit nervous because all of them leave big shoes to fill,” Neate said. “All those players are amazing and I looked up to them, so being in the same role means a lot to me.”
The transition has been seamless as the Bees (17-0-2) ready themselves for a Division I regional semifinal tonight at 7 against Twinsburg (19-0).
The Tigers are making their first trip to the regional level. Behind Allison King (23 goals, 10 assists, 56 points) and McKenna Donahue (17, 14, 48) Twinsburg has scored 69 goals. That’s an average of 3.6 a game for the Suburban League American Conference champions, but Medina coach Doug Coreno isn’t overly worried.
“I can’t say enough about Katie Neate,” he said. “She’s a tremendous leader both on and off the field. Just her play on the field is spectacular. She never comes off and is a tough kid to get around. She’s great on 50-50 balls. She has a lot of pace. She’s as good as it gets as a center back.
“She understands the game tactically and is a very good communicator on the field. You have to have that. You talk about center backs and they have to have pace. They have to be ball winners and they have to be tactically smart and be able to communicate. Katie has all those attributes.”
Those attributes aren’t lost on Medina keeper Tori DeLappi, who shares time with Belle Wagner in net. As a senior, DeLappi has played behind some of the best Medina has offered, and she sees the best of all the former center backs rolled into one in Neate.
“She does a lot very well,” DeLappi said. “She communicates a lot with the outside back and keeps everything together. She really knows how to step to the ball. She’s really good with one-v-one defending. She looked up to (Menssen) a lot, so she knew how to step in when Lily or (Joyner) wasn’t there.
“I know if an opponent does get a shot, it’s going to be pretty good because not a lot gets past her. She knows how to be a leader on the field. She knows that if she’s needed, she’ll be there. She does not disappoint where she is needed. She always steps up.”
Behind Neate, the Bees have given up a tidy eight goals and recorded 13 clean slates. Many times, those shutouts come with Neate neutralizing the opponent’s best striker.
“Katie is a huge part of the team,” Medina forward Haley Anspach said. “She communicates well with the back. Having her back there, I know she’ll keep everything out of there and keep us compact in the middle. She’s really helpful. Knowing Katie is back there, when they have a counterattack, I’m not really worried because I know Katie is strong and she’ll get it out.”
That’s not lost on Greater Cleveland Conference Player of the Year and teammate Maria Nelson, who started her career with the Bees as a defender and has played next to Neate on many occasions in the back.
While Nelson leads the team with 21 goals and 18 assists (60 points), she knows the strength of Medina starts in the back and moves forward.
“Katie is such a strong player,” Nelson said. “I know if I’m playing next to her or if I’m playing up top, she’s always reliable. I love having her on my back line. She comes up big in very big games.”
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