On Sept. 16 at the Stow Soccer Stadium, what was supposed to be a day of celebration for Stow-Munroe Falls boys soccer felt soggy.
Taking on Akron Firestone, the Bulldogs celebrated senior day and honored the 2006 Division I state championship team at halftime.
The contest, however, was marred by weather delays and goalkeeping errors, leaving the Bulldogs with a 3-2 deficit late in the game.
Then in the final two minutes, Stow came through with two goals to pull out an unlikely 4-3 win over the Falcons.
However, Stow could not take any momentum into their next contest, as the Bulldogs dropped a 2-0 loss at Hudson Sept. 20.
Stow's record stood at 3-7 overall and 1-3 in the Suburban League National Conference.
Stow coach Kyle Kosmala said the Firestone contest felt like a bit of karmic payback for earlier this season, when the Bulldogs gave up two goals in the final five minutes to Woodridge.
"We had two crucial errors in goal that really cost us," Kosmala said. "It says something about the guys that we made that many errors in a game and we were able still able to win."
Miscommunication between Stow goalie Spencer Raymond-Smith and his defense cost the Bulldogs the opening goal. When Raymond-Smith was unable to secure the ball in the 15th minute, Firestone's David Wright pounced and put the ball in the net to make it 1-0.
It took Stow most of the first half to find a reply, but the Bulldogs' first goal was a thing of beauty.
Midfielder Leandros Tosko made a run down the right side and fed a nice cross into the box. Junior Grant Grossi hit a perfect strike high into the net, giving Falcon goalie Jacob Weber no chance.
With the match tied 1-1 at the half, halftime lasted nearly 50 minutes due to a storm.
When play finally resumed, Stow stormed into the lead, thanks to Tosko.
The senior stole the ball off a Falcon player, sprinted toward the net and put a high shot into the net, making it 2-1 Stow in the 41st minute.
However, Stow's lead lasted just three minutes, thanks to a goalkeeping mishap by senior Andrew Herring, who replaced Raymond-Smith at halftime.
Slipping on the wet turf, Herring sent a clearing ball right to the feet of Firestone's Max Erisey. Erisey took a couple touches and then put it into the open net, tying the game at 2-2.
Stow pressed forth after that, but Firestone caught the Bulldogs on the counterattack in the 64th minute. A nice series of passes culminated with Jacob Koehler putting a high spot into the net to make it 3-2.
Stow was staring defeat in the face when Kosmala chose to throw sophomore defender Logan Spath up into the target forward role with about four minutes remaining.
"We've put him there a couple of times and it's always worked out for us," Kosmala said. "We just need him in the back more."
The move worked to perfection.
Off a throw-in that Spath earned in the 78th minute, senior Frano Katalinic sent a crossing ball to the back post. Tosko ran onto it and headed it home at point-blank range to tie the game at 3-3.
Stow kept coming after the goal. In the 79th minute, a shot by the Bulldogs was blocked, but fell right to Spath at the top of the box. Spath launched a shot into the top of net for the winning goal.
On Sept. 20, Hudson coach Steve Knapp credited the Bulldogs for playing a solid game.
"They found pockets of space again us and were able to pass the ball," Knapp said. "They played well. We were able to use our speed a little.
Hudson got a bit of good luck on its first goal. Senior captain Sam Durkin was able to dribble along the Stow end line in the third minute and sent a ball into the 6-yard box.
In heavy traffic, the ball bounced off a Stow defender and into the net. The own goal made it 1-0.
After the goal, however, Stow spent much of the first half in Hudson's end of the field. Kosmala said it was his team's best half of passing all season.
"That was the best we played, possession-wise, in the first half, Kosmala said. "It was a lot more precise. [Hudson has] a lot of speed up front that we have to deal with."
However, the Bulldogs could not find the net in the first half, as it was 1-0 at halftime.
Hudson came out with a wider attack in the second half.
In the 49th minute, Hudson's pressure paid off. Midfielder Wilson Sattele's shot was robbed by a brilliant, one-handed save from Raymond-Smith. However, Hudson captain Jack Sarkisian got to the rebound first and smashed it into the net to make it 2-0.
Knapp said he would have liked to have seen his team finish better, but he praised Raymond-Smith for a good game.
"Their keeper was awesome," Knapp said. "He was the difference for them.
The Explorers had a 6-2 edge in shots on goal, while Stow finished with a 7-3 edge in corner kicks.
Raymond-Smith had six saves on the night, while Hudson keeper Connor Gynn had two.
Kosmala said the effort was there for the Bulldogs, but Stow's level of play hasn't produced results.
"I'm not satisfied with the record and I know the players aren't satisfied," Kosmala said. "We just have to keep getting better. I know we'll be playing our best in the postseason."
Stow was set take on Green Sept. 22, but results were not available at press time.
Up next, Stow will host Cuyahoga Falls Sept. 27 at 7 p.m.