COLUMBUS – Jeff Monbeck never considered asking his Centerville boys soccer team not to be on the attack in Saturday’s Division I state final.
He didn’t care that the opponent was defending champion Cleveland St. Ignatius. He didn’t care that the Wildcats hadn’t lost a game in two years or have been ranked No. 1 in Ohio and the nation all season. His team was ranked No. 3 in Ohio and No. 20 in the nation, so why not attack the unbeatable team.
And it almost worked.
The Elks tied the score at a goal apiece with 6:07 left on a slick pass from Jack Drabenstott to Colin Gottron right in front of the net.
“When we scored, I looked at some of their faces, and I don’t think they have ever felt that before,” said Elks senior midfielder Caleb McComas. “I think we took some pride in that.”
However, with 5:55 left in the first overtime period, Nolan Spicer scored to lift Ignatius to a 2-1 victory and the school’s 11th state championship.
“We played Centerville soccer, and it’s unfortunate we’re sitting on this end of it because I think we deserve more,” Monbeck said.
The Elks (20-2-1), playing in their eighth state final and looking for a second title, caught the worst of breaks 32 minutes into the match. Star forward Drew Boettcher sprained his right ankle and didn’t return. He got kicked in his plant foot while taking a shot. He thought he would return, but by halftime the ankle was too swollen.
“Losing Drew changes the game, it changes our plan,” Monbeck said. “But even when that happened, I thought we played well, we put them under a lot of pressure.”
Ignatius coach Mike McLaughlin said his team is probably the finest of all Ignatius teams. And his 23-0 team is not used to the type of game they got from the Elks.
“One hundred percent the best team we played all season,” McLaughlin said. “That’s what you expect in the state final. They had us on our heels, and they did things to us that no team has done this season for sure.”
McComas said the Elks had heard a lot of skepticism about their ability to even give Ignatius a game. The opening minutes looked that way before the Elks settled in and began to make positive plays.
“A lot of our younger guys they go out there and that’s probably what they’re thinking,” McComas said. “And then they get in there and five minutes in, it’s like they’re really not insane. We can play with this team. When we realized that, that’s when we started to get into our game.”
The Wildcats outshot the Elks 27-10, but, as McComas said, play evened out as the game progressed. Still, the Wildcats often seemed on the verge of scoring.
“We defended brilliantly,” Monbeck said of his young back line. “That’s a very, very, very good team. They’re dynamic, and they just come in waves.”
But sophomore goalkeeper Luke Shrivers stood up to those waves and made 10 saves, most of them using every inch of reach he had. The Wildcats’ first goal came when Shrivers stopped a point-blank shot and Josip Rimac tapped in the rebound.
“The kid can’t even drive a car, and he absolutely stood on his head out there on the biggest stage,” Monbeck said of Shrivers.
Earlier in the week Monbeck said if his team could beat Ignatius, it would go down as the best team in school history.
“It’s hard to compare,” he said. “But I do think from top to bottom this is one of the best teams in Centerville history since 1973, without a doubt.”
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