Sunday, October 2, 2022

Hubbard halts West Geauga’s postseason run

TWINSBURG–The harsh reality of an abrupt ending to a successful season hit hard Wednesday night at rainy Twinsburg High School.

Playing on the regional level for the first time since 2004, West Geauga just couldn’t muster enough offense against unbeaten Hubbard in a Division II regional semifinal, with the Eagles dominating play on the way to a 2-0 victory.

“They have a good team,” West Geauga coach Mario Gerhardt said. “They were 18-0-1 and now they’re 19-0-1. I thought we could win because we played pretty hard competition. But they won.”

The future looks bright for the Wolverines, who had as many as four freshmen in the rotation and started two sophomores.

But that doesn’t make it any easier for the seniors.

“We just didn’t finish chances,” said Mo Aidja, one of eight 12th-graders on the roster. “We’re just going to look at the film and then our season’s over.”

The resurrection of the West Geauga program began two years ago when Gerhardt came on staff after leaving the ultra-successful Chagrin Falls program he started in the 1970s. This year standouts such as Aidja and Dave Beattie, the Most Valuable Player of the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division, led the Wolverines to a 12-7-1 record.

“I’m really proud of the boys,” Beattie said. “We hadn’t been here since 2004. We brought a really young team here and got this far.”

West Geauga was forced to play from behind almost the entire match, as the Eagles scored just four minutes into the affair. A.J. Trobeck served a fine cross to Michael VanSuch, who found himself all alone in front of freshman goalkeeper Sam Onderdonk, who had no chance to stop the shot.

In the meantime, West Geauga struggled to force the action on the offensive end. They had only one shot on goal in the first half and it came with just one minute left in the period.

“We didn’t force the keeper to make any saves except for a couple,” Gerhardt said. “That was the difference. We needed to have shot more and we didn’t. On a rainy day like this you need to make the keeper make some saves and we didn’t force him to make many saves.”

Things got better in the second half, as the Wolverines twice came excruciatingly close to finding the back of the net. With about 31 minutes to play, junior forward C.J. Contizano had a header hit the crossbar on a corner kick. About 18 minutes later, Beattie received a great cross from Aidja and put a solid shot on goal, but Hubbard keeper Dominic Colella was up to the task, preserving the shutout.

“That was a pretty good opportunity,” Aidja said. “I just saw Dave wide open out wide and he one-touched it. It was a good shot. The keeper had a good save. Nothing you can do about that.”

But those were really the only two legitimate scoring opportunities on the night. The Wolverines kept battling the entire way, but with 7:52 left to play, Hubbard’s Jacob Gulu redirected a loose ball into the net from just in front of the goal, for all intents and purposes ending West Geauga’s magical postseason run and forcing Gerhardt to sum up the season.

“We won the district,” he said. “We won more games than we lost. The kids improved tremendously skill-wise, and so on. We were playing three or four freshmen the whole time. We’ll miss Dave, obviously, next year, but somebody else is going to step up. We’ll be fine. I’m looking forward to it.”

So are the players, including those who won’t be around to continue the growth of the program.

“(This season) was really nice,” Aidja said. “We have to give credit to the underclassmen, too, because they’re young and have a good future. Maybe in the next few years we can do it again.”

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