Sweet 16 is here for area high school soc­cer

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Sports - By Chris Lill­strung CLill­strung@news-her­ald.com @CLill­strungNH on Twit­ter

With re­gional semi­fi­nal matches loom­ing Oct. 31 (girls) and Nov. 1 (boys), Chris Lill­strung breaks down the chances for News-Her­ald area sides to ad­vance to the elite eight.

UNIVER­SITY VS. HUD­SON

What: Di­vi­sion I re­gional semi­fi­nal When: 7 p.m., Nov. 1 Where: Solon, 33600 In­wood Road

Records: Univer­sity 15-2-2, Hud­son 11-6-2

What’s next: The win­ner ad­vances to a re­gional fi­nal Nov. 4 against St. Ig­natius or Mas­sil­lon Jack­son at a site and time to be de­ter­mined.

What to look for: Univer­sity could not have been any more em­phatic in a 7-1 Di­vi­sion I district fi­nal win over Lake Catholic on Oct. 28. Back in re­gional com­pe­ti­tion for the first time since 2014 and fourth time since 2012, the Prep­pers may be mak­ing their first sweet 16 ap­pear­ance in D-I, but they’re a load no mat­ter which di­vi­sion they’re in. The de­fen­sive-third play, led by cen­ter backs Jake Hamil­ton and Ja­cob Dui­jser, has sparked US to 12 clean sheets and just 10 goals yielded in 2017. The at­tack is pacey and pro­lific, with ju­nior cen­tral mid­fielder Grif­fin Meyer (20 goals, 11 as­sists) at the con­trols and se­nior Ge­orge Nageeb (14-14) as an as­sertive hold­ing mid. The Prep­pers’ com­bi­na­tion play al­ways has a pur­pose and uses the en­tirety of mid­field as well as any­one in Greater Cleve­land. Hud­son is 8-2-2 since Sept. 12. Don’t be fooled by the record — the Ex­plor­ers play a bru­tal sched­ule. Skanda Moor­thy pro­vided the match-win­ner in a 2-1 district fi­nal win over Stow-Mun­roe Falls in the 75th minute. Moor­thy and Wil­son Sat­tele key the Hud­son at­tack, along with Ryan Sark­isian and Se­bas­tian Kreiss. US has been adamant with a one match at a time ap­proach all year, never putting too much stock in what has hap­pened or what hap­pens next, which is a ben­e­fit now more than ever as the stages grow in stature. If the Prep­pers can set a tone in ball­win­ning early and pos­sess with its usual reg­u­lar­ity, they have a good shot at grab­bing a re­sult here.

HAWKEN VS. MARLINGTON

What: Di­vi­sion II re­gional

semi­fi­nal When: 7 p.m., Nov. 1 Where: Twins­burg, 10084 Ravenna Road Records: Hawken 14-3-2, Marlington 15-3-1 What’s next: The win­ner ad­vances to a re­gional fi­nal Nov. 4 against War­ren How­land or Aurora at a site and time to be de­ter­mined.

What to look for: As a pro­gram, Hawken cer­tainly knows its way around this time of year, with 12 state fi­nal four ap­pear­ances all-time. But this is new ground for this se­nior-laden side, as the Hawks haven’t been to the sweet 16 since 2013. The Hawks, at their best, are a con­fi­dent group into the of­fen­sive third, paced by se­nior play­maker Reed Abrams and striker Zeki Zai. The is­sue at times, how­ever, has been get­ting to that third and fourth pass with their touches to move with the in­tent long­time coach Dani Gi­ul­vezan prefers. Their open­ing 40s in a 4-1 district semi­fi­nal win over Perry and a 4-0 district fi­nal vic­tory over Gil­mour have been nervy, so it will be im­por­tant for Hawken to show poise from the start and pos­sess and move off the ball to their ca­pa­bil­ity. Marlington is a fa­mil­iar side in re­gional com­pe­ti­tion, with 10 ap­pear­ances since 2004. This marks the Dukes’ fourth re­gional match against an area side, with losses against Lake Catholic (2015) and Univer­sity (2013) and a win over Cha­grin Falls (2011). They are led in the of­fen­sive third by stand­out se­nior Micah Kaiser (26 goals, five as­sists), and fel­low se­niors Joe Mor­ris (7-5) and Evan McGuire (6-6) are ca­pa­ble play­mak­ers as well. This match seem­ingly comes down to the de­fen­sive third. The Hawken back­line, led by se­nior Jimmy Clark, needs to keep a good shape and min­i­mize Kaiser’s touches. The same can be said for the Dukes try­ing to slow down the Hawks’ pace and limit Abrams and Zai.

MAY­FIELD VS. HATH­AWAY BROWN

What: Di­vi­sion I re­gional semi­fi­nal When: 7 p.m., Oct. 31 Where: Brush Records: May­field 14-3-2, Hath­away Brown 12-5-1 What’s next: The win­ner will ad­vance to a re­gional fi­nal Nov. 4 against Walsh Je­suit or Mas­sil­lon Jack­son at a site and time to be de­ter­mined. What to look for: To its credit, May­field has been mak­ing this re­gional ad­vance­ment process old hat by now, as the Wild­cats are in their fourth straight Di­vi­sion I sweet 16 af­ter none in girls soc­cer in school his­tory prior to this run. There are few sides with the type and vari­ance of big-match ex­pe­ri­ence May­field posssesses. The Wild­cats’ at­tack is an­chored by all-Ohio cen­ter mid Tyler Klika (8-5), who might have this area’s best workrate and sense for ser­vice. Up top, ju­nior striker Cassie Lewis (18-5) is a per­sis­tent per­former who ab­sorbs con­tact well, which can make for a long match for a de­fender. Cather­ine Rock (9-10) has been out­stand­ing as a sopho­more. The de­fen­sive-third play has been a work in progress, go­ing be­tween three in the back or four with Klika as a deep hold­ing mid. Sopho­more goal­keeper E.B. Fluharty is com­ing off her best per­for­mance of the sea­son, sav­ing two PKs in a district fi­nal shootout win over Madi­son, and Coach Matt Lu­bin raves about her work on the train­ing ground. Hath­away Brown is 3-1 against area sides this fall, with wins over Geneva, Ken­ston and Hawken and a tight loss to fel­low sweet-16 side Lake Catholic. The Blaz­ers are 9-1 since Sept. 11, and there is no shame in the three-match los­ing skid that pre­ceded it against Lake, Mag­ni­fi­cat and Bay. With a side that ca­pa­ble, May­field needs to strong with its ball­win­ning from the out­set, use width and max­i­mize set pieces, one of its strengths.

LAKE CATHOLIC VS. CVCA

What: Di­vi­sion II re­gional semi­fi­nal When: 7 p.m., Oct. 31 Where: Twins­burg, 10084 Ravenna Road Records: Lake Catholic 14-32, CVCA 14-5

What’s next: The win­ner ad­vances to a re­gional fi­nal Nov. 4 against Can­field or Re­vere at a site and time to be de­ter­mined.

What to look for: Lake Catholic emerged from the meat­grinder that was the area Di­vi­sion II district, sur­viv­ing a 1-0 ex­tra-time win in a district semi­fi­nal over Hawken and knock­ing out wire-to-wire Top of the Crop No. 1 side Gil­mour in a penalty-kick shootout in a district fi­nal. The Cougars’ at­tack is young but highly ca­pa­ble, led by ju­nior Kati Druz­ina. The Notre Dame re­cruit thrives no mat­ter where she’s po­si­tioned tac­ti­cally, as an at­tack­ing cen­ter mid or a striker up top in a two-for­ward pair­ing or on the out­side in three up top. Even with sides who elect to go with mark­ing, her pace, power and tech­ni­cal skill are a night­mare. Kennedy Soly­mosi might be this area’s best goal­keeper and showed it with three saves in the shootout against the Lancers. Her an­tic­i­pa­tion and po­si­tion­ing set her apart, and her ex­pe­ri­ence has al­lowed a young back three to de­velop bet­ter in front of her. There is a vet­eran in­flu­ence in mid­field as well with se­niors Kennedy Ne­whart and Brynn Mor­gan. Ne­whart stands out when put into a left out­side mid role but can also be a ball­win­ner as a cen­ter mid. CVCA has won nine straight af­ter get­ting routed by Hath­away Brown, 6-2, on Sept. 20. The Roy­als have a pair of po­tent at­tack­ers in fresh­man Pay­ton Fra­ley (17 goals) and ju­nior Ken­zie Spod­nik (16), and sopho­more Mad­die Critzer (eight goals) is also very solid. One thing worth not­ing is CVCA ap­pears to be a bit sus­cep­ti­ble in the back, with 27 goals yielded and six matches con­ced­ing two goals or more. So it will be im­por­tant for the Cougars to test the Roy­als’ de­fen­sive shape from the start, in­clud­ing some di­ag­o­nal play at which Lake can ex­cel.

KIRT­LAND VS. ROOTSTOWN

What: Di­vi­sion III re­gional semi­fi­nal When: 7 p.m., Oct. 31 Where: Solon, 33600 In­wood Road Records: Kirt­land 12-4-3, Rootstown 13-5

What’s next: The win­ner ad­vances to a re­gional fi­nal Nov. 4 against New Mid­dle­town Spring­field or Elyria Catholic at a site and time to be de­ter­mined.

What to look for: There is never rea­son to be alarmed when Kirt­land has the oc­ca­sional reg­u­lar-sea­son loss, be­cause the point against larger-school sides is to be bat­tle-tested when the Hor­nets get to the Di­vi­sion III post­sea­son. This is per­haps a younger Kirt­land squad than usual — cer­tainly moreso than the 2015 state fi­nal four side — but the legacy of that run are the play­ers lead­ing the Hor­nets now, in­clud­ing se­niors Han­nah Vouk (four goals, 11 as­sists) and Mag­gie Kadas. Kirt­land is at its peak when it com­bines and em­pha­sizes wide play amid that process. Sopho­more Maya Zovko (18-7) is one of this area’s most promis­ing at­tack­ers. The Hor­nets have also shown growth in the de­fen­sive third, with six goals yielded and eight clean sheets since Sept. 11. Whether it’s been Kirt­land now or Gil­mour or Hawken be­fore it, the area’s D-III rep­re­sen­ta­tive has typ­i­cally not been tested might­ily in a re­gional semi­fi­nal. The Hor­nets played Rootstown a year ago in the reg­u­lar sea­son and rolled to a 3-0 win in which they subbed freely and the Rovers brought no subs on their bench to Lake County. With all due re­spect to Rootstown, which ad­vanced with a shootout win in a district fi­nal over War­ren Cham­pion, its sched­ule is also not overly com­pelling with a .456 op­po­nents’ win per­cent­age. Pro­vided Kirt­land can pos­sess well, com­bine with in­tent on a fast track at Solon and get an early goal, it’s hard to en­vi­sion this be­ing a tight match late. But the Rovers will ob­vi­ously make them work as hard as they can for a re­sult.

PAUL DICICCO — THE NEWS-HER­ALD

Univer­sity’s Ge­orge Nageeb tries to di­rect a header dur­ing the Prep­pers’ Di­vi­sion I district fi­nal win over Lake Catholic.

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