By Kevin Prise
HAMBURG — Medina defeated Akron 1-0 earlier in the Niagara-Orleans League regular season, in a game that Tiger coach Chuck Pfohl strangely deemed meaningless immediately upon defeat. Mustangs coach Steve Luksch disagreed with that sentiment, knowing the two teams could meet again once the playoffs rolled around.
Luksch was right. Medina won the B-1 sectional playoff bracket, Akron took the B-2 crown, and the Mustangs entered the rematch knowing they could undoubtedly compete with the top-ranked Tigers.
Unfortunately for Medina, when the stakes were raised, the result wasn't. Akron opened the scoring on a laser-like shot 11 minutes into the game, played solid defense throughout, and came away with a 2-0 win in the Class B boys soccer championship game at Hamburg High School on Saturday afternoon. Akron moves on to Far West Regional action this Saturday, while Medina's season concludes.
In contrast to Medina's thrilling 2-1 double-overtime win over Newfane in the B-1 championship on Thursday, which featured a torrential downpour throughout the game, Saturday brought less rain but more cold. The wind played a factor on Saturday but not as much, although Akron senior Randy Mayer took advantage of the breeze to launch a high shot that soared just over Medina goalie Adam Hoot's outstretched hand for the opening goal.
The Mustangs broke the pregame huddle with '1-2-3-brothers!' and played that way, diving for loose balls and throwing their bodies all over the place to keep the game within reach. Late in the first half, James Ianni and Steven Anderson had nice scoring opportunities (Ianni on a throw-in, and Anderson on a drive toward the net), but Akron's goalie held tough to keep the halftime score at 1-0. The Tigers had seven corner kick opportunities in the first half, while Medina had none.
Early in the second half, with coaches and players on the sideline urging the team to pressure, Medina maintained consistent possession of the ball and produced a number of promising opportunities. Four minutes into the half, an Anderson-to-Ianni connection led to Medina's first two corner kicks of the day, but the Mustangs couldn't capitalize. Five minutes later, a direct kick by Anthony Pane deflected off the goalie, as a rowdy contingent of Medina fans urged the team to keep it up.
But with 14 minutes to play, Akron took a 2-0 lead that proved insurmountable. After Akron made a save on a direct kick by Anderson, the Tigers embarked on a fast break into the Medina end. Akron's Tristan Olszewski got the ball in front and fired a shot that was saved by Hoot, but Olszewski got his own rebound and put it in.
From there, the Akron defense bent a bit but didn't break, and the Tigers held on for the victory. Ianni had Medina's final chance on a partial breakaway with 30 seconds left, heeding the crowd's encouragement to play with heart, but Akron made the save to maintain the shutout.
Akron senior midfielder Nick Doria stayed behind on defense for most of the game, and Luksch felt this subtle switch was key to the Tigers' defensive success on Saturday.
"They made sure we couldn't get a clean shot," Luksch said. "Give Akron a lot of credit, they had a good game plan coming in, and they're a good team."
For the Mustangs, it wasn't a bad game, but it wasn't quite good enough to beat a very good team.
"We didn't have many breakdowns, but we just couldn't catch a break," Luksch added. "Randy Mayer had a great shot from about 30 yards; you have to tip your hat to him. And on the second goal, Adam made a great save, but they got an unlucky rebound and finished it."