BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Nearly every school record has fallen this season as the Maumee boys soccer team has gone on an absolute tear through its regular season and postseason challenges.
With a Division II district championship now in their pocket, what’s next for the 19-0-1 Panthers?
“We all feel really good,” Panthers goalkeeper Taylor Lewis said. “This season has been crazy. We’re still undefeated through districts, which has never happened before. We feel really good about ourselves.
“We know that if we stay locked in, there’s more we can do. We’re more focused than proud. After the season, we can reflect and be happy with how far we’ve come, but right now, it’s just focused on the next game.”
Maumee took another step in its postseason journey last week, beating Delta, 2-0, in the district semifinal game and Wauseon, 3-1, in the district championship game.
Blake Wagener continued his historic season, scoring twice in the semifinal and once more in the final, giving him 54 goals and 127 points this season, both tops in the state.
Austin Dwyer and Frankie Folger also scored against the Indians.
“I knew it was going to be a good season overall, but leading the state in goals just came out of nowhere,” Wagener said.
“The team is meshing together really well this year. The midfield loves to move the ball, they love to give it to me up top. Everybody on the field wants the team to score, wants me to score.”
Wauseon’s goal snapped a five-game scoreless streak the Maumee defense had posted. It was only the eighth goal scored against the Panthers this season.
Both Maumee defender Jackson Kain and Lewis agreed – the defensive dominance has been a complete team effort.
“You can even see it in the stats; in years past, I’ve had 100, 200, 300 saves, and this year, I’m not even scraping 100,” Lewis said. “I don’t really do all that much, but when I do have to make a save, I’m ready. They make my job a lot easier – and boring – a lot of times.”
“There’s zero stress,” Kain added. “You’ve got guys like Blake Wagener, Austin Dwyer, Frankie Folger, all those guys are incredible, and if they happen to get by me, they’ve got the brick wall back there. Nothing is getting by him. There is zero workload on my shoulders some days.”
Maumee hopes to ride the big scoring of its attackers and stinginess of its defense to even more wins. The Panthers were scheduled to face Richfield Revere (17-0-2) in a Division II regional semifinal on Wednesday night at Sandusky Fireland Stadium.
Maumee is the only team remaining in the Region 6 bracket to not appear in the Ohio coaches poll – Revere ended the regular season at No. 1, and the other semifinal features No. 11 Lexington against No. 15 St. Marys Memorial.
According to Wagener, the opportunity to face Revere in the semifinal is a prime opportunity for the Panthers to show they belong among the top teams in the state.
“It’s definitely a great way to do that,” Wagener said. “We went undefeated, won a conference championship, and when you look at the state polls, we’re not in the top 15, we’re not receiving votes.
“There’s teams up there … that we know we could be much better than. I feel like beating Revere would put us up there with those teams.
“Out of every team in Ohio, if there was one team to shock Revere, it would be us.”
Ask anyone who’s won back-to-back titles and they’ll all agree – winning the second was much more difficult.
The Maumee girls soccer team found out just how much more difficult last week, beating Wauseon and Port Clinton by matching 3-2 finals to claim the Panthers’ second straight Division II district title.
“Defending the title was a lot tougher this year,” Maumee senior Julia Findling said. “It puts a lot of pressure on us. A lot of us were nervous, definitely a lot more than last year.”
Panthers coach Jeremiah McNutt warned his players that this district tournament was going to be different.
“We’re no longer the giant killers – we are now the giant,” McNutt said. “For the first time, they got to see what it was like to be the hunted. They struggled a little bit but pulled it together in the end.”
Ava Leonard scored twice against Wauseon, which beat Maumee, 1-0, during the regular season. Malaya Jones added the game winner against the Indians.
Charley Bischoff had two goals against Port Clinton, with the third goal coming from Findling.
Scoring coming from multiple players continued a familiar theme for the Panthers. Findling leads the team with 18 goals and Leonard has 13, but 12 players have scored for Maumee and 14 have at least one point.
“It’s nice when I hear, ‘Find 14, find 14,’” McNutt said, referring to Findling’s jersey number, “and then you’ll have Ava go off and score two or three, then they go shut down Ava and Julia will score. They were both being shut down in the last game – and Charley scores.”
The Panthers (16-5) advanced to the regional tournament, where it was scheduled to face top-ranked and undefeated Rocky River in a semifinal match on Tuesday in Huron. The winner faces either Lima Shawnee or Mansfield Madison in the regional final at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at Bowling Green High School.
“It’s the worst draw possible we could get … but every team has to lose,” McNutt said. “(Rocky River) is perfect right now. There’s nothing to say Tuesday can’t be their first blemish, Saturday can’t be their first blemish, next year will be their first blemish.
“They have to lose eventually, so maybe it could be us.”
If the girls and boys teams both win their regional semifinal matchups, it would set up a back-to-back regional final afternoon for the Panthers at BG; the boys regional final is at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.
According to Findling, there has been a friendly competition between the two squads to see who can make it the furthest in the tournament.
“We really love each other and support each other,” Findling said. “The boys team and the girls team have been through a lot. There’s a really good connection between us, but yeah, it is a friendly rivalry.”
With both teams playing in their regional semifinal this week, it begs the question: Is Maumee now officially a “soccer school?”
Findling seems to think so.
“I think we’ve done so good this year and we deserve it,” Findling said. “I guess Maumee is a soccer school.”