This week’s Section VI soccer playoffs have been dominated by cold and windy days, and Thursday was no exception. Temperatures were hard-pressed to reach 50 degrees at Veterans Park, as Medina and Eden boys soccer players struggled at first to adjust to the near-wintery conditions.
But 38 minutes into the game, Medina’s James Ianni found a seam as he drove into the offensive end, executing a perfectly-placed pass toward Steven Anderson.
Anderson didn’t miss a beat, deflecting the ball past the Eden goalie to give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead at intermission. Medina had the wind at its back for the second half and immediately took control after the back-and-forth first 40 minutes, cruising to a 4-0 victory over Eden in a Class B-1 quarterfinal game.
With the win, No. 2 Medina moves on to face No. 3 Lafayette in the Class B-1 semifinals this afternoon at All High Stadium in Buffalo. For No. 7 Eden, the season is over.
“You knew the wind was going to play a big factor, and it did,” Medina coach Steve Luksch said. “That goal at the end of the first half was huge; it seemed like it took the momentum away from them. Once the second half started, we were able to take control.”
For most of the first half, the two teams played an evenly matched game that was short on premium scoring opportunities for either side. Anderson, Ianni and Anthony Pane were able to generate a few chances in front of the net, but nothing came of it.
Luksch wasn’t too surprised to see the relatively calm start, due to the pressure-packed nature of postseason play.
“The first 10 or 15 minutes, it seemed like everyone on both sides was pretty defensive-minded, and afraid of making mistakes,” Luksch said. “Things don’t really open up until teams take some chances, and everyone was safe with the ball at the beginning. Nobody was taking many chances with their fullbacks or defenders.”
But Anderson’s goal sparked the Mustangs, and Medina came out firing after the intermission. 18 minutes into the second half, Anderson struck from the left side just in front of the net, after receiving a laser-like crossing pass from Ianni.
A few minutes later, Brennen O’Connor sealed the deal on a shot from about 12 feet in front of the net. Once again, the genesis of the play came via Ianni, whose hard work in the corner and crisp crossing pass led to the scoring opportunity for O’Connor.
O’Connor earned his second goal of the game with just a minute remaining, on an assist from Josh White and Cedric Griffith.
After the game, Luksch cautioned his team to be smart in preparation for today’s semifinal contest against Lafayette, considering the 22-hour turnaround time between games. Despite the minimal opportunity for rest, Luksch is encouraged by having a deep roster, which allowed him to rest some of his key starters for the last 10 to 15 minutes of Thursday’s game.
“We have a deep team, so I’m not too worried about it,” Luksch said. “I was able to sit some guys late for some rest, so it might be an advantage to us, if anything.”
Lafayette defeated No. 6 Depew 1-0 on Thursday afternoon, after going 9-3-1 in the regular season.