BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — The Maumee boys soccer team made an easy romp through the Division II sectional tournament, beating Clyde and Central Catholic by a combined score of 14-0.
For a team with its eyes on much larger prizes, the Panthers didn’t let their focus stray from the task at hand. They’re now 17-0-1 overall – one win away from tying the best record in school history – and haven’t been scored on in nearly a month.
With the top seed in the district, Maumee coach Chad Kain could have opted to only play one game last week. He elected to start the tournament against an overmatched Clyde team, however.
“I took the play-in game to get us playing right away, and I wanted to get some of the players who don’t see a ton of minutes – especially at tournament time – on the field so they could enjoy the moment,” Kain said.
Maumee made quick work of Clyde, posting an 8-0 win in only one half of action. Blake Wagener had three goals and an assist, and Noah Preciado had two goals and two assists.
Colin Brewer, Bradyn Saneholtz and Owen Sloan also scored for the Panthers.
Maumee faced the Irish for the second time in less than two weeks in the sectional final, beating them by a 6-0 margin. Austin Dwyer and Mahmoud Abderlrazek had two goals each, Wagener had a goal and two assists, and Preciado added a goal.
The competition gets tougher this week in the district tournament at Lake High School. The Panthers were scheduled to face 13-win Delta in Monday’s semifinal with the winner advancing to Thursday’s final against either Sandusky Perkins or Wauseon.
“Right now at training, we are just enjoying the moment,” Kain said. “There’s not much we can put in that’s going to change the game, so just keeping the boys smiling, focused and staying sharp has been the main focus.”
Last week, Maumee was honored for a dominating season with nine players being named to the All-Northern Buckeye Conference team, including a Player of the Year nod for Wagener.
Joining Wagener on the first team were Dwyer, Frankie Folger, Jackson Kain and Corvion Kelly. Taylor Lewis and Caeden Light were named to the second team, and Saneholtz and Roen Miller were on the honorable mention list.
“It’s been a fun season and it’s great to see the boys get recognized finally for all their hard work. It’s been a long time coming,” Chad Kain said.
“I’m extremely proud of those boys that received league honors, but I’ll say it again, we are a soccer family and this whole family will continue to push toward our goals.
“Blake Wagener as Player of the Year, what an honor for him. Again, I’m so extremely proud of him. He’s pushed the attention off of himself to stay focused on the prize.”
Winning sectional titles is becoming a habit for the Maumee girls soccer team.
The Panthers posted a 7-1 win over Otsego last weekend, giving Maumee its third straight Division II sectional championship.
“Three straight means a lot to the program and this senior class,” said Panthers coach Jeremiah McNutt. “The seniors have come a long way from their freshman year and it is coming together nicely.
“For the program, it shows a positive step in rebuilding the program. There is still work to be done, but the program is taking the right steps forward.”
The Panthers improved to 12-6 with the win. Third-seeded Maumee was scheduled to face No. 2 Wauseon in the district semifinal on Wednesday at Lake High School. The winner advanced to the final at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, when they’ll face the winner of No. 1 Oak Harbor and No. 4 Port Clinton.
Wauseon beat Maumee, 1-0, earlier this month.
Senior Julia Findling netted her third hat trick of the season against the Knights, going for three goals and an assist. She now leads the team with 16 goals this year.
“Julia has grown a lot this year,” McNutt said. “She is starting to show what I knew she could do. I don’t think we have seen her full potential yet.
“Not only is she scoring, but she is starting to get more assists, including the heel pass to Ainsley Heckman for her goal.”
Heckman scored her first goal of the season against Otsego along with an assist, and senior Cait Smalley also had a goal and an assist. Ava Leonard and Shannon Tolbert each had two assists.
Freshmen Addi Stamm and Alissa Drake each had their first varsity goals.
Last week, the Panthers also had eight players named to the All-Northern Buckeye Conference team. Findling and Charley Bischoff made the first team, and Smalley and Tolbert were named to the second team. Evelyn Boyett, Jaiden Kovar, Lauren Liwo and Leonard all received honorable mention.
McNutt admitted he’s biased toward his players as their coach, but he said it’s always good to see other coaches appreciate the skills and talents of his squad.
“I believe all my players should be recognized, but when other coaches see it, too, it shows those players how good they really are, especially when you don’t have a lot of stats,” McNutt said.
“Two players that come to mind with that are Shannon Tolbert and Jaiden Kovar. Shannon has a few stats, but she starts a lot of our attacks, and other coaches see that. And Jaiden, she just shuts down most teams’ top forwards, does her job and makes it look so easy.”