COPLEY TWP.: The Medina soccer team walked off InfoCision Field at Copley Stadium with a different feeling Wednesday night than it did last year.
Smiles and laughter filled the air as Bees players rejoiced after a 2-1 overtime victory over the Indians in a Division I district semifinal.
Medina senior Nate Libertowski recalled last year’s dejecting setback to Copley in penalty kicks after the teams played to a 3-3 draw after two overtimes.
Wednesday night, he stepped up in the 84th minute and converted a penalty kick to end the match after getting fouled in the box.
“It is so big to get this win,” Libertowski said after celebrating with teammates near midfield. “We get to host the district final now, and it’s big when you think about what happened last year when we lost to Copley in PKs. This was the team we circled on our calendar. We wanted to beat this team. They are a great team. Even with 10 players, they were a handful. I am proud of all of my guys. Everyone stepped up. It feels go great.”
Medina will host Highland in a district final at 7 p.m. Saturday. Highland beat Brunswick 1-0 Wednesday.
No. 1 seed Copley (13-3-2) played a man down for the final 51 minutes after getting a red card. No. 3 seed Medina (11-4-2) was unable to take advantage until overtime.
“I was just in the zone,” Libertowski said. “We practice PKs a lot. I got to my spot and I knew where the ball was going.”
Medina took a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute when Libertowski sent a pass to junior Aaron Liezert, who scored.
Copley drew even at 1-1 in the seventh minute when sophomore Skye Harter converted a penalty kick. Freshman Chris Brennan set up Harter’s opportunity when he was fouled in the box near the goal.
“I knew coming in that this would be a tough game,” Liezert said. “They are one of our biggest competitors. They took it from us last year, so we had a lot of emotion coming in. We wanted to take it to them, and we scored one early, but they got right back at us. We had to keep our heads up. We could not let the same thing happen as last year.”
The sides remained tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation.
“There are a lot kids here that walked off of this field last year after that loss, so it is so nice for them to get this win,” Medina coach Mark Malikowski said.
“Our kids deserve this. They have played really well down the stretch of the season and practiced well. Copley is a fantastic team, but I thought we earned the victory with our effort and play in the second half.”
Junior Dean McNeil had a solid match at goalkeeper for Medina. Senior Chris Sabetta led a starting defensive unit that included sophomore Noah Hastings and juniors Ben Case and Jared Vidika.
Senior Michael Clendenin, junior Brandon Hough, junior Austin Horvath and freshman Jacob Schaefer also contributed as Bees starters.
Medina also avenged a 2-0 loss earlier this season against Copley, a Division I state semifinalist last year.
“They played us differently than they did the first time we played this season,” Copley coach David Antal said. “After speaking with Firestone coaches, whom they played in the game prior, we knew this would be a physical game. They came out and played very physical. I think we made a couple of bad decisions, which caused us to play a man down. I think even when we went down a man, the game didn’t change that much. I didn’t feel all that threatened. I think we still created plenty of chances.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.