What we have here, folks, is a quandary.
Who, exactly, has the best boys soccer team in Lorain County? Is it Wellington, Lake Ridge or Elyria Catholic? Is it none of the above or all of them?
Did the Dukes eliminate the Lake Ridge Lions from consideration with their 4-3 victory on Thursday?
Or does the distinction rebound to EC’s Panthers, who on Monday scored a huge 3-2 victory over Wickliffe?
EC’s big win was on the road against a team which had already defeated both Wellington and Lake Ridge. And don’t forget, Wickliffe’s Blue Devils were Division III state runners-up last year. The victory came about a week after the Panthers were shocked by Columbia in non-conference play.
“That was probably the best this team has played,” EC coach Mike Wisnor said of the Wickliffe match. “It came off our loss to Columbia and that game was probably good for our boys. It was a wake-up call. I think they realized they can’t just walk onto the field and expect to win. They came out ready to play (against Wickliffe).”
Anthony Saxton had two of the Panthers’ goals and Jimmy Zambo the other. One of Wickliffe’s two goals came on a penalty kick. The other was a shot taken with the EC keeper screened on the play. He simply didn’t see the shot, said Wisnor.
In some ways it’s good that Division II EC and Wellington can’t meet in the postseason. That means they have a chance to advance without knocking one another off, as has happened in the past.
In other ways it’s not so good, because we won’t have the benefit of a head-to-head match. For its part, Lake Ridge remains in Division III.
The boys and girls Elyria Cups will be on the line this afternoon when the crosstown soccer rivalry between Elyria and Elyria Catholic resumes at Ely Stadium. The girls match is first up at 2 p.m. and the boys follow about 4. The EC teams enjoy huge victory margins.
Ordinarily, this year’s matches would have been played at Pioneer Field on Abbe Road. They were moved to the stadium because the parking lot is bigger. The games return to Knights of Columbus Field at EC next season.
Lady Lions roar
The Lake Ridge boys receive a lot of attention.
But the Lady Lions have gone largely unnoticed. Hard to figure, since after losing their first game of the season, they reeled off 10 straight victories under coach Mike Besu. The ninth and 10th of those came over the weekend as Lake Ridge won its own invitational tournament title for the second year in a row.
“It seems like nobody pays any attention to the girls,” Besu said. “It’s time they got a little recognition of their own.”
They’ve earned it. Goalkeeper Emily Kurtz and stopper Alex Hansen anchor a strong defense. Midfielder Sarah Wright, with more than 20 goals, is the team’s leading scorer, and forward Mary Shimko is near the 20-goal mark after scoring four in the Lions’ title-game win over Oberlin on Sunday.
Incidentally, Wisnor became EC’s all-time winningest boys soccer coach last year when the Panthers finished 12-5-1. Coming into this season, Wisnor’s career record stood at 53-30-11, one victory better than his predecessor, Carl DelCorral, who was 52-43-12.
So Wisnor’s record grows every time the Panthers win a match. He notched his 62nd career victory when EC routed Benedictine on Wednesday.
Elyria’s boys, under first-year coach Greg Leininger, have reeled off three straight victories. That doesn’t happen often.
But the Pioneers have defeated Amherst, Firelands and Garfield Heights in that order heading into the annual confrontation with EC.
Leininger said the defense is playing well, with goalkeeper Jared Backs posting a shutout against Firelands and allowing just one goal to Garfield Heights. The team is getting strong offense from forwards Rayshawn Camel and Matt Schilke, and midfielder Chris Vidovich.
“The leadership has really stepped up,” said Leininger, a former Pioneers star who graduated in 2000. “Everybody is playing very well right now.”
Leininger played in the EHS-EC match three times: two losses and a tie.
Weather or not
It must have been a relief for Wellington athletics director Jeff Jump to see the Dukes play a home soccer match on Thursday.
When the Midview-at-Wellington girls game was postponed by thunder, lightning, heavy rain and gathering dusk on Monday, it was at least the third time in a week soccer games were called off because of weather — the second time at Wellington.
Soccer matches are almost never postponed or cancelled because of weather.
North Olmsted’s girls game at Amherst was put off last week because of thunderstorms and Wellington’s boys lost a non-conference home game with Kirtland. The Midview and Wellington girls will try again Monday.
Postseason tournament drawings will be held statewide on Sunday. Sectional play begins a week from Monday. District matches will be held Oct. 22-27 and regional matches on Oct. 30 and Nov. 3.
Boys state semifinals will be played at various sites on Nov. 6, the girls’ on Nov. 7. Boys finals will be Nov. 9-10 and the girls on Nov. 10, all at Columbus Crew Stadium. Here are the sectional-district assignments for area schools:
Boys: Division I — All but Midview in the Rocky River district. Midview in Brunswick field. Division II — All but Elyria Catholic at Rocky River. EC to Brunswick. Division III — All area teams in the Rocky River field.
Girls: Division I — All but Midview in Rocky River district. Midview at Brunswick. Division II — All but Wellington in the Rocky River field. Wellington at Brunswick.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or email@example.com with information for this notebook and nominations for player of the week.
Jon Strickler, Amherst
LAST WEEK: The diminutive (5-foot-5, 130 pounds) freshman made his mark as a varsity player with a hat trick in a 3-3 tie with North Ridgeville. His third goal would have been the game-winner had the Rangers not tied the match in the last two minutes. He has scored six goals as the Comets built a 6-4-1 record.
BIO: The freshman Strickler starts with three sophomores on Amherst’s young team. “He has played a big part as we rebuild for this season and beyond,” said coach Brett Thompson. Strickler also enjoys baseball and track and expects to play one or the other in the spring. Enjoys sports and video games in his spare time and in school likes his social studies courses.
LOOKING AHEAD: Has more than three years of high school left, but already thinks about playing college soccer.
Sarah Petras, Columbia
LAST WEEK: Scored a goal in the Raiders’ 4-2 victory over Berea and both goals in their 2-1 win over Keystone. Columbia dropped a 1-0 decision to Wellington, but Petras dominated play in the midfield, as she usually does. Also put seven shots on the Lady Dukes’ goal.
BIO: Her play through the past week has been a big factor in the Raiders’ six victories. Is interested in a nursing career and was selected for a Cleveland Clinic internship program over the summer. Is also active in student government, the school’s sportsmanship committee and is a member of Leaders Club and the Key Club.
LOOKING AHEAD: Petras is being aggressively recruited for soccer by a number of colleges.