WESTERVILLE — The X factor for the Medina girls lacrosse team at the state level has always been experience.
A squad that has made the Division I semifinals seven seasons in a row, the Bees (10-7) always seem to have an advantage — especially in the nerves category — when it gets to the round of four.
But what happens when a team like Upper Arlington (17-2) is staring across the sideline at Medina? The Golden Bears have been in seven of the last eight state finals and have won it all as recently as 2013.
That’s what will face Medina today at 5:15 p.m. when the two go at it at Westerville Central High School for the right to play either Massillon Jackson (15-2) or defending state champion Sycamore (16-3) in the state final.
“I think it brings it to an even playing field,” Bees coach Amanda Wilson said. “In these games, it doesn’t matter who runs the X’s and O’s better. Whether they’ve been there seven or 13 years in a row, it’s who wants it more and who puts it all on the line.”
That certainly will be on the minds of Mackenzie Hitchcock, Olivia Passe, Mikaela Faus, Cassie Hudson-Heck, who played on the 2012 team that beat Upper Arlington in the state final.
It will also be on the minds of first-team All-Ohioan Molly Plasket and Caroline Buse for the Bears as the tandem played on the 2012 team as well.
“They’re very evenly matched,” Upper Arlington coach Wendy Pinta said. “I think we’re equivalent. Defensively we’re a bit different, but certainly two very strong teams are matched up in this semifinal game.”
From Sarah Vanadia (55 goals, 6 assists) to Colleen Scullin (7, 29) to Hitchcock (17, 14) to Alyssa Rydell (15, 10) to Ashley Bernardi (18, 5), the Bees have players that can fill the net.
Likewise, Plasket (63 goals, 60 assists), Megan Morgan (57, 9), Megan Sengelmann (42, 18), Mary Nicole Scott (42, 9), first-team All-Ohioan Olivia Schildmeyer (20, 8) and Anna Schildmeyer (20, 2) can bring it as well for the Bears.
Add to that, the fact Upper Arlington beat Medina 9-6 on April 11 and things look like it should be coming up Bears.
According to Pinta, that game means nothing, as the contest was played with a running clock three games into the season.
“I think if anything, it’s more cause for concern when you win,” she said. “It can lead to some overconfidence. The format of that game was a 20-minute running clock as compared to a 25-minute stopped clock. We played on a slow surface.
“So many other things factor in at the state tournament – intensity, focus, drive, competitiveness – all of those thing are magnified to the nth degree.”
History says Pinta is right. Medina is 2-3 in the last four seasons against the Bears. The only time the two played twice was back in 2012. Upper Arlington won the regular season affair 9-7 and then lost 10-9 in the state final.
“We’ve struggled with them a lot, but we have a history of ending their season in the finals, so hopefully we can do that again,” Hitchcock said. “We can learn a lot from that game. It’s a whole different game now. That one didn’t mean anything at all.”
Hitchcock is also right, as all three of Medina’s state titles (2010-12) came with wins over the Bears in the championship game.
“We have been there before and it’s prepared us to win the battle,” Vanadia said. “We’re ready for it. I think they might take us for granted a bit because they beat us.
“But we’re a different team now. We’ve refocused. It’s going to be who wants it more, who wants to play on Saturday.”
Errors in a game like this will be magnified. So will the fact Upper Arlington has won 335 of the 432 face-offs it has had this year.
Being able to keep your wits and stay in control will be key. Whether that equates to a second straight finals trip for Medina remains to be seen.
“What wins this game is staying focused,” Wilson said. “Mistakes will be made, it’s the resiliency of how you react that wins. The team that bounces back tends to win the game.
“Nerves will be there. If they weren’t, I’d be nervous about what we’re thinking about. If we don’t let ourselves focus on who is lining up on the other side, hopefully that slump won’t happen.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.