By Kevin Prise
TOWN OF TONAWANDA —
The Medina boys soccer team is lucky to play its home games on the Veterans Park turf, a truth that was never more apparent than during Wednesday afternoon's contest between Medina and CSAT at the Expressway Fields in Tonawanda.
When the team arrived at the field (at 4:35 p.m., with start time scheduled for 4:45), it found itself facing a muddy mess that was sure to wreak havoc for both the Mustangs and Eagles. Many areas of the field (particularly in the center) were filled with mud, and a few puddles were even developing near one net.
With limited time to practice, Medina coach Steve Luksch's main concern was ensuring that goalkeeper Adam Hoot received a proper warm-up, so that he could adjust to the potential of slipping while trying to make a save. Everyone else? Well, they would have to adjust on the fly, in the game's opening minutes.
But the Mustangs haven't let much bother them this season, and the result on Wednesday proved just that. Medina maintained possession in the offensive zone for most of the game and capitalized on plenty of chances, jumping out to a 2-0 halftime lead and cruising to a 5-0 win in a Niagara-Orleans League match. Medina improves to 6-2-2 in league play with two games remaining, while CSAT drops to 2-8.
"I was nervous at first, getting here, trying to get everybody adequately warmed up and used to the field," Luksch said. "But it worked out pretty well."
The Mustangs discovered early that the wings were the driest areas of the field, and the team generated the majority of its scoring opportunities from the outside as a result. James Ianni opened the scoring on a corner kick 12 minutes into play, and Ben Howell scored on an assist from Scott Barber six minutes before halftime, accounting for the 2-0 margin at intermission.
The lead could have been even more pronounced if not for the strong defensive effort of CSAT senior Garrett Greco, whose physicality limited Medina's Steven Anderson from cashing in on two golden scoring opportunities near the net.
Six minutes into the second half, Barry Rogenmoser accepted a crisp pass from Ianni and launched a bullet of a shot toward the left side of the CSAT net, beating the goalie for a 3-0 Medina lead. Then 14 minutes later, after resisting an Eagles flurry in front of the Medina net, Anderson and Alex Murphy burst the length of the field on a quick rush that resulted in a goal for Anderson.
Ianni rounded out the scoring on a penalty kick at the 62-minute mark, and the Mustangs were well on their way to victory. After the final buzzer had sounded, Murphy and fellow senior Josh White celebrated by sliding full-force into the thick mud that had continued to develop across the field.
With the season's remaining games all at home, and the possibility of hosting playoff games at Veterans Park (Medina is currently in line for a top-three seed in Class B-1 for sectional play), this could have very well been the Mustang seniors' last chance to enjoy the muddy, puddly, wet type of playing surface that is so often seen in lower levels of play.
They took advantage of it.
"It was easier to keep our footing out on the wings, so most of our scoring was done from there," Luksch said. "We played the ball outside, and we played it well."