By Doug Chapin
POLAND — Cardinal Mooney High won a boys soccer district championship for the ninth consecutive season, capturing the Division II district title with a 2-0 triumph Saturday night over Poland on the top-seeded Bulldogs’ home turf.
The Cardinals (10-7-2), who will play Marlington Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Brecksville in a regional semifinal, have won the Div. II district six times during their streak and the Div. III crown on three occasions.
“This time of year, this is what we play for,” Mooney coach Larry Lencyk said. “We use the regular season to prepare for this and that’s what we focus on. In the regular season we hope to get better and improve and this group has done well.
“There is a lot of pressure on the whole team to continue to improve and carry on the Mooney tradition. They step it up, they’re committed, they are focused.”
Mooney’s first goal came on a penalty kick by Sean Sikich with 16:41 remaining in the first half. Maroun Estephan made a move past a Poland defender and was fouled just inside the penalty area on the right side.
Both teams had some decent chances throughout — each team had a header bang off the crossbar — but no one could finish.
Unofficially, the Cardinals finished with 14 shot attempts, three on goal, and Poland had 12 shots, five on goal.
It appeared Poland had scored at the 17:47 mark of the second half when Ryan Storkel converted a cross from Dan Hunt, but Storkel was ruled offside. Storkel later, with about 10 minutes remaining, headed the ball just over the crossbar.
Mooney finally put the game away when Chris Felker scored from about 20 yards out with 2:42 left in the game.
“We created a lot of opportunities which is exactly what we wanted to do,” Poland coach Brad Sackella said. “We wanted to get the ball to our forwards and see what they could do with it.
“The PK took a little bit out of us, we really needed halftime to re-organize and get the team set for the second half. We came out and had a lot of opportunities in the second half. In fact I think we started to carry it a little bit there in the second, but we just weren’t able to take advantage of the opportunities.”
Mooney traditionally schedules some of the top teams in the state during the regular season. Mooney’s schedule this season included the first-, second- and third-ranked teams in Division II, the third-ranked team in Division I and the third- and fourth-ranked teams in Division III.
Against teams from the Mahoning Valley, including tournament games, Mooney was 7-0 with a 36-3 scoring margin. The Cardinals get plenty of leadership from a core group of seniors.
“We have six seniors that start and they’ve shown nothing but leadership the entire year,” Lencyk said. “They are focused and intense. At every practice session and in everything we do they provide leadership, especially on the field.”
Poland (16-1-2) completed an outstanding season ranked ninth in the state in Division II in the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association poll.
“Mooney’s a great team. One thing I know is our guys all had respect for them and likewise, I believe, they had respect for us,” Sackella said. “I knew that we would come out and have a good game tonight. The kids came out and performed like we wanted them to. I’m super proud of them, they did everything that we asked of them.”