By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
MEDINA -- Kyle Buxman sat on a water cooler, his soft blond hair matted with sweat, and took a deep breath.
It was the first time all evening the Cardinal Mooney High junior had stopped to rest.
Behind Buxman, the Mooney boys soccer team was still on the field celebrating its 2-1 win over Kidron Central Christian in a Division III state semifinal game Tuesday.
But, the Mooney team had rallied behind Buxman, and the rest of the midfielders, in this way-too-easy match.
"It was a team effort; it was all around," Buxman said with a grin.
Buxman seemed to win every free ball and it was his hustle that ignited frequent Mooney scoring opportunities.
Three out of four
This will be Mooney's third trip to the state championship game in the last four years.
In 2002 the Cardinals defeated Columbus Bishop DeSales 2-1 in overtime to give the Valley its only prep soccer title.
The following season the Cardinals lost in a regional championship game.
Last year Mooney fell to Watkins Memorial 1-0 in overtime in the state title match.
Friday at 3 p.m. at Columbus Crew Stadium Mooney will face top-ranked Jamestown Greeneview (23-0) for the crown.
Buxman got off five shots -- as a team the Cardinals held a dominating edge in shots taken, 20-3, and assisted on the second goal.
"He works so hard," Mooney coach Lenny Krispinsky said of Buxman. "He's just a real leader on the team.
"He's really a great kid. He's part of a real core of kids that we've had on the team -- Dom DiPasquale, Kyle Buxman and Alecko Frangopoulos. These kids played club ball together. These kids know where they're going to be at any point in time on the field."
With the midfield combination of Rob Fox, Scott Blasko, Frangopoulos and Buxman controlling the action, the Comets (17-5) had no opportunity to attack.
"That core group in the middle of the field is what really helps us to get us the success we achieved," Krispinsky said of his midfielders.
After missing their first 11 shots of the match, the Cardinals (18-3-1) got on the board in the 28th minute when Blasko headed in a corner kick for his biggest goal of his career.
DiPasquale, a junior forward, started the scoring play with a kick to the goal's far post. Blasko was stationed perfectly.
"Dom played it to the opposite post and I got in front of my man and headed it in," Blasko said of his point-blank shot.
Senior Zack Hernan used several effective passes from his midfield to shoot five times but it wasn't until the 12th minute of the second half that Mooney scored again.
Buxman pushed a ball to DiPasquale who was making a run down the right side.
His 20-yard kick to the opposite post made it 2-0 and gave DiPasquale 17 goals on the year.
Mooney nearly had its seventh straight shutout but the Comets finally scored with seven minutes to go. A KCC player was fouled in the box and Chris Mast scored on a penalty kick.
Other than that mistake, the Mooney defense was up to the challenge.
"We had great balls from Dom to finish the game for us on," said Buxman deflecting the credit of his steely play.
"We had all-around great play. Fox helped us in the midfield. [Kevin] Miller kept us together. The defense was awesome."