EASTLAKE—The high school soccer playoffs are three weeks away but one couldn’t tell from the intensity of North’s 1-1 draw with visiting Mentor on Thursday.
“Mentor-Eastlake North is always like that,” said North coach Steve Misick of the intense 80 minutes of play. “We dominated the game. Clearly, we were the better team. It should have been 2-0 in the first five minutes. We had those kinds of chances but their keeper bailed them out. Without question, he was the player of the match for them.”
North (7-5-1) peppered the Mentor goal with shot after shot in the early goings but Cardinals’ keeper Connor Larrick proved up to the challenge and turned away the Rangers’ strikers.
The Rangers controlled possession for most of the first half but had nothing to show for it at the break.
North continued its assault on the net early in the second half with three direct shots on goal. Larrick punched away one while another just cleared the crossbar and the other shot missed left.
After the third North shot, Mentor’s counterattack sprung into action but a breakaway attempt resulted in a foul in the box. Elliot Miller converted the penalty kick to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead with 32:23 remaining in the game.
“That’s what they do,” Misick said of the counterattack. “We play similar styles but they have bigger, stronger guys physically, but I think we’re a little bit quicker overall. They did what they could do.”
North worked the ball through the midfield and finally caught a break when Kaden Kocin was awarded a penalty kick that tied the game with 26:24 left to play.
“Statistically, we doubled shots on goal and had the better chances. They got the PK, we got a PK, it was a typical Mentor-North game,” Misick said. “(The tie is) disappointing. I thought it was our best 80 minutes of the season. We never subbed, they played all 80 minutes. Do we have holes? Absolutely, but our guys were pumped up for the game, the adrenaline was flowing, and I thought we played a real nice game.”
Despite the tie, the Rangers have a lot to celebrate as they are as close to full strength as they’ve been all season long.
North opened the season with several injured players, including keeper Bo Vinson. Slowly but surely, the injured Rangers returned to the lineup and North has won seven of its last 10 games after starting the season 0-3.
“We had such a bad start to the season,” Misick said. “We just didn’t have the players and we didn’t have a goalkeeper until the seventh game. You can’t play our schedule without a goalkeeper.”