PENINSULA — Stow-Munroe Falls and Woodridge boys soccer have put on some early-season shows over the past few years.
When the two backyard rivals met Saturday at Lahoski Field, Woodridge coach Andrew Spencer admitted Stow was probably the better team.
As often happens in soccer, however, when unable to finish its scoring chances, the better team doesn’t necessarily win.
Stow dominated possession and chances in the first half, but found itself down 1-0 at the half. Stow was able to salvage a 1-1 tie in this Battle of the Bulldogs, but Woodridge was clearly the happier team after the game.
Stow moved to 1-0-2 on the season, while Woodridge moved to 0-1-2.
Stow coach Kyle Kosmala noted his Bulldogs did just about everything right — except score.
"The effort was great," Kosmala said. "We just have to be able to finish those chances. Our crosses were not what they needed to be. [Woodridge] played a great game. They challenged us for everything."
Woodrdge coach Andrew Spencer was happy with his team’s defensive improvements in the early season.
"I thought we did a better job sitting back and seeing what they would do," Spencer said. "Stow soccer is Stow soccer. They want to get the ball wide and cross it, but they always have something else they try to work it."
Stow had a huge advantage in offensive possession, which showed in an 18-3 edge in corner kicks and a 9-3 edge in shots on goal.
While Stow pressed hard in the early going, it was Woodridge that got the first goal in the fifth minute, on a goal both coaches said was "perfect."
Woodridge midfielder Daniel Batyrbaev teed a corner kick from the near side and sent it to the six-yard box. Josh Fleming outjumped the Stow defense and headed it into the far net, scoring the first goal of the season for Woodridge.
"It was great," Spencer said. "Joe just got up over everyone."
"It was a perfect cross and shot," Kosmala said. "You can’t do anything about it."
For the rest of the first half, Stow pounded the ball into Woodridge’s offensive zone, only to be denied by Woodridge’s defense, the woodwork or goaltender Ben Rado. Rado finished with seven saves.
Perhaps Stow’s best chance came off one of its 11 first-half corner kicks in the 18th minute, as a great service to the back post from Miles Thomas was smashed off the crossbar.
Frustrated by its lack of cutting in front of goal in the first half, Stow broke through two minutes into the second — with virtually the same play Woodridge scored on.
Thomas took a corner kick from the near side and sent it toward the back post. Stow forward Josh Clovis got his head to the ball in a crowd and put it home, making it 1-1.
Stow continued to control the ball early in the second half, but Kosamla said the Bulldogs almost were too patient later in the game.
"Late in the game, we started playing like last year’s team," Kosmala said. "That’s not us. We needed to stop taking so many touches and move the ball more."
"The thing we improved most on defense was our communication," Spencer said. "We knew they were going to be all over the field tonight and staying organized was a key for us."
Woodridge had its moments late in the game and nearly got a chance to steal the win with under 30 seconds left. Woodridge was awarded a free kick about 30 yards out from goal.
Senior Jad El-ghazel launched a high shot, which forced Stow goalkeeper Sean Flanagan to punch onto the crossbar. Time expired before Woodridge could get the ensuing corner kick in,.