RAVENNA — An expression often used by coaches is, “It’s hard to beat a team twice.”
It’s even harder to do it three times.
League rivals Lakeview and Poland met in the regional semi-finals and Poland came out on top, beating the Trumbull County Bulldogs 4-0 to advance to the Division III, Region 9 final.
“I’m super proud” said Poland coach Neil Huda. “I’m excited for them. It’s good. It feels good after losing last year in the district (semi-finals).
Both Bulldog teams traded chances for much of the first half, but Ariel Grischow broke the deadlock.
On his third consecutive corner kick attempt, Grischow put Poland on the board, bouncing off the fingertips of the Lakeview keeper into the net.
“They started hooking it up,” Huda said. “I think it helped them when they connected the passes more. At first we were a bit sloppy, then I think we calmed down and the nerves loosened and they played good football.
Once the nerves were gone, Poland became deadlier in the attacking third. In the first 10 minutes of the second half. Poland scored two more goals, then netted one more just after the halfway mark of the second half.
This corner goal served as the perfect catalyst.
“It was really good” said Grischow. “It’s a good start and all my teammates have supported me. It’s just amazing.
After last season’s district final loss to Kenston on the Ravenna High School Smurfs turf, the Bulldogs got back to business. They pushed a bit harder this time around and became more active in the club scene. Two things that can only help if it’s do or die.
“Our off-season was a little more difficult” Huda said. “We hit the weight room a lot more, a lot more girls played at the club, so that helps. That’s what we really worked on in the offseason to make them stronger.
Getting the same team three times provides additional benefits and challenges. After two meetings, you have a pretty good idea of what the other team is going to do, so you can plan accordingly.
The problem is that your opponent can too.
“We watched a lot of movies about them, and I thought we had to change things,” Huda said. “At half-time we had to change some things to hopefully make them uncomfortable and maybe let us do a few more things that we couldn’t do if we didn’t see it. thrice.”
With this familiarity also comes confidence.
“I could tell we were pretty confident because we’ve already beaten them twice, but you always have to go out there and expect that they can come out stronger than before,” said Grischow. “It was really exciting to get it all out tonight.”
Lakeview’s season ends at 15-4-1. While that’s not how they wanted to end, Lakeview’s 2022 campaign was a stark turnaround from the previous year and coach Marissa Brown is optimistic about the future.
“We had a fantastic season. Unfortunately the end was disappointing but I look forward to the future of Lakeview football and good luck to Poland as it continues. she says.
This is Poland’s first-ever trip to a regional final. They’ve had several trips to the regional semifinals in the past, but Tuesday’s victory is their first on the regional stage.
The regional final is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. The trip from Poland is a little faster than the trip to Ravenna, as the Bulldogs will travel to Howland for the chance to qualify for the state finals.