Saturday, the Cardinals will meet Wickliffe in the regional championship.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CANTON -- There are several important components to building a championship athletic team -- talented players, momentum, health and quality coaching -- but not to be overlooked is experience.
Experience, coupled with an expectation to win, were important elements in Tuesday's 2-0 victory by the Cardinal Mooney boys soccer team over Wellington in a Division III regional semifinal at Canton Central Catholic High School.
While some teams set their sights on just winning league titles, Mooney (16-3-1) seems to prepare for its annual trip to the state championship game.
The Cardinals are playing in their sixth straight regional tournament where they are 8-2 against the state's best. In contrast, Wellington (18-2) was in its fifth trip to the regional tournament in seven years but has just a 1-5 mark.
The experience of winning those critical regional games showed.
"It definitely helps to know what you're going into every year," said Mooney coach Joe DeMay. "In terms of the travel, in terms of the regulation, in terms of the facilities."
While the Dukes seemed prepared to play a packed defense, Mooney took its time to look for a crease.
"It seemed like they were very committed to defending tonight," DeMay said. "I thought that if we were patient and could get that first goal, that we would be able to then dictate the game a lot more and that's what happened."
Despite being blanked for the first 53 minutes, never did the Mooney team play panicked and never did any frustration enter their game.
Then, at the 27th minute of the second, half wing player Leo Hicks dropped a perfect pass from the deep right side to the middle of the goalie's box.
Beck drills one
Mooney's Tim Beck accepted the volley and drilled home the feed.
"On crosses and set pieces, this year's he's been tremendous," DeMay said of Beck. "He's probably got 7-8 goals and all but one have come off balls being served into him from a corner [kick] or a cross."
Demonstrating its total dominance, at the time of the score, Mooney held a 15-2 advantage in shots taken.
"I got a ball on Leo's cross and I was there to fortunately get it in," Beck said.
"Then I told the guys we had to play hard and finish off this game. Our goal is to win the state championship."
Just a minute later senior Aleko Frangopoulos settled a ball about 30 yards away from the Wellington goal. He exploded into the ball, scoring against a goalie who was caught flat-footed.
"That was a great shot; that was a cracker," DeMay said of the insurance tally. "He saw the ball, knew where the goal was just hit the shot.
"We actually talked at halftime about him sitting in that space just outside of the top of the penalty area and looking for balls coming out to him."
Frangopoulos, a four-year starter, explained his tally.
"I haven't scored in a while so I was thinking to score. Scott [Blasko] gave me a good ball so I was looking to shoot and hoping it would go in," Frangopoulos said. "I had a clear shot. Right when it went off my foot I knew it was going at the goal, so I figured it was going in."
Mooney's defense of Sean Sullivan, Robbie Fox, Kyle Buxman and Sean Sikich threw up an iron curtain around goalie Jon Critel who posted his 13th shutout in 20 games.
Due to the defensive effort of the Cards, the Dukes two big scorers were blanked.
"They had their two big attacking players who have like 70 goals between the two of them and they didn't get a shot off all night," said DeMay.
Chris Huelsman entered the game with 37 goals and 17 assists for the Dukes. Greg Stawicki had 31 goals and 19 assists.
Saturday at Brush High School, 7 p.m. Mooney will meet Wickliffe (16-3-1) in the regional championship.
Wickliffe eliminated Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas, 1-0.