The Press Newspaper
Lake's boys and girls’ soccer teams entered this week in unfamiliar territory.
Neither team had ever reached the regional tournament, but that's just what both Flyers squads accomplished.
First-year coach Chad Lillich's boys team, which went 6-10 a year ago, beat Creston Norwayne 3-1 on Tuesday in a Division III regional semifinal match at Medina.
It was the eighth straight win for the Flyers (15-4-1), whose losses this season are to Eastwood (twice), Genoa and Liberty-Benton.
Lake advanced to Saturday's regional finals against Ottawa Hills, which beat Ottoville 2-0 in a semifinal Tuesday at Findlay. The Green Bears (17-3) and Flyers have never met in soccer.
"Right now it feels like Cloud 9," Lillich said. "It's been a remarkable season for us. Most of the kids we have on our starting roster, this is the first time they've gotten playing time. Were very young. It's one of those seasons where we took every game one at a time and had that mentality every game. The only people who expected us to win was this team and the coaches."
Sophomore midfielder Nick McCarthy, playing his second match of the season, scored two goals against Norwayne in the regional semis. Freshman forward Osvaldo Paredes scored the other goal for Lake, which ended Norwayne's season at 10-8-3.
McCarthy, who started as a freshman, said he is a little surprised the Flyers have made it to the regional finals.
"Nobody was expecting us to go this far," he said. "We just proved them wrong. We play a lot of possession soccer and that helps us a lot, being such a young team. A lot of us have been playing together for a while and we're used to how everybody plays."
McCarthy's first goal gave Lake a 1-0 halftime lead against Norwayne.
"That took a little bit of pressure off our midfielders and forwards," Lillich said. "Last year we blew a two-goal lead in the torunament and ended up losing. This year, we stayed poised. That goal was great. And, we had great fan support. That goal got the fans involved in the game and we seemed to feed off the crowd pretty good."
Paredes' score boosted the Flyers' lead to 2-0 in the second half, allowing Lake some breathing room.
"After that, we were just trying to play possession and slow the game down," Lillich said. "They were making some runs to try to get back in the game. A couple times we panicked with the ball, but I just told them to keep your feet and keep the ball moving. Don't bunker in. Sometimes with a young team we have a tendency to get a lead and not keep playing."
Lillich said one advantage of having a young team is that his players aren't aware of how close they are to the state tournament. A win over Ottawa Hills will propel Lake to the state tourney in Columbus.
"We were ready to go (Tuesday)," the coach said. "Half of the kids don't realize where we're at. The other half, its just a game. That's great. After the game, they realized what we're playing for."
Norwayne didn't score against Lake until the final 15 minutes, when it trailed 3-0.
"We didn't know much about them," Lillich said. "They have a couple of good players up top. We kind of went with my plan to keep shooting on goal and keeping it on the ground because Norwayne had a tall keeper. We thought our midfielders would be able to press the action with Bryant Philo and Drew Metz.
"With McCarthy coming back, he was pretty fired up and ready to play. He gave us that extra spark we hadn't had all season."
Lake reached the regional with a 1-0 overtime win over Mansfield St. Peter last Saturday in Mansfield. The Flyers also have tournament wins over Old Fort (5-0) and Tiffin Calvert (2-1 in overtime).
McCarthy said Lake plans to continue what it has been doing all season when it takes on Ottawa Hills.
"Just keep playing possession soccer and playing as a team," he said. "I feel pretty confident."