By Doug Chapin
Mooney beats Marlington, 2-1
The Cardinals stayed with the game plan and won it in the second half.
BROADVIEW HEIGHTS — The Cardinal Mooney boys soccer team faced what could have been a difficult situation Tuesday night in the Division II regional semifinal against Marlington High.
The Cardinals held a significant advantage in possession and shot attempts in the first half, but went into the locker room at Brecksville High locked in a scoreless tie.
Dominating play but failing to score can sometimes cause a team to begin to press and to stray from its game plan. But the Cardinals showed composure and patience in tallying two second-half goals, enough to overcome a late Marlington penalty kick in a 2-1 triumph.
Mooney plays Lake Catholic Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Brush High in the regional championship.
“We had so much possession, we has so many good opportunities and we just couldn’t put it away,” senior captain Thomas Beck said. “It seems like that’s been a problem the whole season.
“In the second half we wanted to just keep on doing what we were doing the first half, but we just had to put the ball in the back of the net. That’s the bottom line.”
“We just didn’t finish,” Mooney coach Larry Lencyk said. “Sometimes you can say, ‘Finish!’ but it’s easier said than done. When you’re in a game situation with the pressure and the speed of the game it’s sometimes hard to finish.
“We’ve had that issue throughout the season. We’re getting opportunities, we’re just not finishing. We work on it all the time but I can’t pinpoint exactly what the problem is there. But getting opportunities is good, it’s a good thing.”
Unofficial first-half statistics showed Mooney (11-7-2) had 14 shot attempts to three for the Dukes, including a 7-1 edge in shots on goal. In the second half the Cards fired eight shots, six on goal, to one off-target shot for the Dukes (12-5-3).
“The type of competition we played during the season does help us maintain composure,” Lencyk said. “In a game like this you could very easily get frustrated, plus the other team does gain momentum. They feel like, ‘OK we can play with them,’ when you go in scoreless at halftime even though you’re possessing the ball.
“With the schedule we played, going against some of the very best teams in the state, there’s pressure there and there’s pressure in these games, obviously.”
The Cardinals had several decent scoring opportunities in the first half. Ryan Yavorsky was stopped on consecutive shots by Marlington’s Michael McDermott (nine saves) in the sixth minute of play, and Beck hit the crossbar from about 15 yards out at the 27:30 mark of the half.
In the second half the first goal came with 37:37 remaining. Beck controlled a throw-in on the Dukes’ end of the field and was able to cross the ball in front of the goal. Clay Hicks managed to get a foot on the ball in a crowd and banged it into the net.
The second goal didn’t come until the 6:48 mark. Beck outmaneuvered a couple of Marlington defenders on a breakaway and fired from about 15 yards out on the left side.
McDermott made a great save, but miscommunication between the keeper and a defender left the ball on the turf. Senior defender Eric Ehrenberg got to it first and put it into the back of the net for a 2-0 Mooney lead.
Marlington’s penalty kick came with 1:25 remaining in the contest and was scored by Cameron Binkley.
“I’m never 100 percent satisfied with our performance, but defensively we did a pretty good job marking people and denying them the ball,” Lencyk said. “We gave them a lot of chances with silly fouls, especially in our defensive third. That’s something we have to clean up. You can’t afford to do that at this level.”
Mooney, which has advanced to the regional level nine straight years, lost in the regional semifinals the past two seasons. Both losses were to Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy which is playing in Division III this season. Mooney and CVCA played to a 0-0 tie on Sept. 24 of this season.
From 2002-06 the Cardinals had advanced at least as far as the regional title game for five straight seasons.
“To get back here, to get out of districts is the first thing,” Beck said about Mooney’s thought process come tournament time. “From there we just take it one game at a time. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, we’re going to play our game.”
The Cardinals hope that approach pays dividends on Saturday.