ASHLAND - Northview's fifth bid for a Division I girls regional soccer championship met the same fate as the first four, as the youthful Wildcats were stung 4-0 by the swarming Medina Bees yesterday at Ashland's Community Stadium.
"You have to give credit to Medina," Northview coach Rick Burgin said. "That is an unbelievable team that we just played. What I can say about our girls is that we fought. [Medina] only scored two goals on set pieces. But the better team won today, it was just that simple."
The fourth-ranked Bees (19-1-2), who have yet to allow a goal through six tournament games, and just six goals in 22 matches this season, got all the scoring they would need 10:56 into the first half.
That's when Jillian Graff took a feed from her right from Sydney Thomas and fired a low, straight-on shot past Northview sophomore goalkeeper Jessica Jessing from point-blank range in the penalty area.
Further hindering the Wildcats' chances of advancing to their first state semifinal, Medina added a goal to make it 2-0 with
16:34 left in the half.
This time, Bee midfielder Sarah Flanders was the culprit, beating Jessing off a direct free kick from the right side delivered by teammate Melissa Hill.
The Wildcats did have a few minor scoring chances before the break but could manage nothing of the point-blank variety that the Bees consistently created.
"They have an enormous amount of athletes on that team," Burgin said. "They're a bigger, stronger team than us. We have come from behind this year, so [being down 2-0] wasn't a concern then.
"We still had confidence that we could come back, but that was an incredible team."
Medina, which took its only loss of the season by a 1-0 count to second-ranked Strongsville, has already avenged that setback. The Bees eliminated Strongsville in convincing fashion, 4-0 in the district finals.
Northview's best scoring chance came 7:10 into the second half when sophomore Brooke Snead took a pass from Haley Gasser from the left corner and got off a quick shot. But the ball bounded off the left post to preserve the Medina shutout.
If the Wildcats had any hope of a comeback, it was dashed 12:29 into the second half on a defensive breakdown that enabled Flanders to record her second goal of the match for a commanding 3-0 lead.
Jessing (three saves) made an acrobatic diving save with 19:00 left, preventing further damage as the Bees continued swarming offensively with their comfortable lead.
But the Bees cracked through once more late on Northview backup goalkeeper Lexi Fisher. Bee freshman Emily Felton found the back of the net with 1:41 left in the game.
Northview (13-6-3), which saw its run of 10 straight Northern Lakes League championships snapped this season by Anthony Wayne, rallied with its young roster (only three seniors). The Wildcats posted five straight tournament wins after closing the regular season with a 3-1 loss to Perrysburg and a 1-1 tie with North Royalton.
Led by senior standout Kate Schmidt, who will play at the University of Cincinnati, they avenged their NLL loss to Anthony Wayne by beating the Generals 2-1 in the district semifinals. Northview then beat St. Ursula 3-2 to win the district and used two goals from Schmidt to beat Findlay 2-1 in last Wednesday's regional semifinal at Ottawa Hills.
"No one expected us to get this far, but we all knew we could do it," Schmidt said. "It's great and [the younger Wildcats] have nothing to be sad about. It is sad we lost, but I'm so proud of these girls, and I'll never forget this season.
"I play with some of the [Medina] girls on my club team, and they bring it. They're just a good team. There's no doubt about it. They have a few playmakers, and they just didn't stop. It was hard to contain them all."
Medina has recorded 10 straight shutouts overall and has not allowed more than one goal in any game this season. Goalkeeper Taylor Burke made three saves yesterday.
"I told the girls, 'You can have talent, but heart takes you a heck of a lot further,'•" Burgin said of his team's surprising tourney run. "This team will always be that team [with heart] when I talk about that. I'm proud of them. We only have three seniors, so we return a bunch of these girls, and this was a learning curve for a lot of them. The good thing was that we got better as the year went on."