PENINSULA — Senior Night took on a special meaning for the Woodridge boys soccer team Tuesday at Lahoski Field.
The Bulldogs’ 11 senior already had guided the team to its fifth straight Portage Trail Conference Metro Division title, but a win over Springfield could lead them to an even bigger milestone.
Although the game wasn’t perfect, it was mission accomplished for the Bulldogs, as they scored a 2-0 win over the Spartans.
With the win, Woodridge improved to 8-5-1 and finished 7-0 in the Metro Division. That meant the Class of 2019 will graduate with a career mark of 27-0-1 vs. Metro Division foes, making it the first to go undefeated in the Metro Division for its career.
Woodridge coach Todd Hartong paid tribute to his seniors.
"It’s a remarkable accomplishment," Hartong said. "We don’t take winning the PTC for granted. It’s our goal and our focus every year. As long as the streak keeps going, every team we play wants to be the team that beats us. It becomes harder every year."
Hartong was particulary proud of his two captains and four-year lettermen — midfielder Aiden Hartong and defender Alex Schertz — for leading his team to the milestone.
"We have a saying: ‘Leave your jersey better than when you go it.’" coach Hartong. "Whoever the wears the 12 [Aiden Hartong] and the 22 [Schertz] is going to have big shoes to fill. They’ve done a great job learning from that team two years ago and continuing to take as where we need to go."
As for the game itself, Wooridge dominated in every aspect — except the scoreboard.
Woodridge finished with a 14-2 edge in shots on goal, but nearly every quality chance seemed to go right to Springfield goaltender Derek Davis.
Davis finished with nine saves on the night and Woodridge also hit the frame of the goal on three occasions. Bulldogs goaltender Ben Rado made two easy saves on shots from distance to the preserve the shutout.
"For whatever reason, we just could not crack the goal tonight," Hartong said. "We hit it to the goaltenders feet, we hit it off his hands, we hit it off his back, we hit the woodwork a couple times.
"I don’t think we were in danger very often tonight. We just couldn’t finish. That’s something we need to work on."
While the seniors were honored, it was junior forward Josh Fleming who scored both goals for the Bulldogs.
In the 14th minute, the Bulldogs opened the scoring on a corner kick. Nolan Spencer took the corner kick and found Fleming on the back post.
Fleming’s initial contact with the ball wasn’t too solid, but he was able to bundled the ball over the line to make it 1-0.
While his first goal was scruffy, Fleming’s second goal was a thing of beauty just before halftime.
Forward Nathan Dunaj made a run down the left side and send a cross into the six-yard back, which Fleming was able to volley into the net with 53 seconds left in the first half.
Up 2-0, Woodridge continued to dominated possession and had several brilliant passing sequences in the second half. However, Woodridge could not find a third goal, despite multiple chances, which frustrated Hartong’s plans.
"We had some guys that we wanted to get some minutes to tonight, but we couldn’t do it because it was closer than we wanted it," Hartong said.
Hartong had reasons to get his reserve players some time, as Woodridge looking at playing four games in seven days.
That stretch continues with a home game vs. Akron Firestone Thursday at 7 p.m. followed by a trip to Chagrin Falls Saturday at noon.
The Chagrin Falls game could be a perfect lead into the postseason for Woodridge, as the Tigers were given the No. 1 seed in the Division II Kent district tournament.
The Bulldogs were seeded sixth in the tournament and will open the postseason by hosting 11th seed Southeast next Tuesday at 7 p.m. The winner of that game will play third-seeded Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy Oct. 20 at 7 p.m.
Hartong was unequivocal in his assessment of the Kent district.
"It’s the toughest in the state of Ohio," Hartong said. "Any time you’ve got three state-ranked teams in the draw, that tells you all you need to know. We play these tough games like Firestone and Chagrin so that, when we run into CVCA, we’re not shocked by their skill."