Oct. 30—Mentor vs. Magnificat
What: Division I regional semifinal
When: 7 p.m., Oct. 31
Where: Akron SVSM, 15 North Maple Street
Records: Mentor 14-5-1, Magnificat 10-6-3
What's next: The winner advances to a regional final at noon Nov. 4 against Solon or Walsh Jesuit at Nordonia.
What to look for: Mentor carries the proverbial News-Herald coverage area banner into the sweet 16 as the lone area girls side remaining. Following a 1-0 loss Sept. 23 at Solon, the Cardinals have embarked on a seven-match win streak to return to the regional level. In the process, amid their biggest matches of the fall, Mentor avenged regular-season blemishes by beating Twinsburg (2-1 in a shootout), which it tied, 0-0, on Sept. 2, and Green (1-0), to which it lost, 1-0, on Aug. 19. A grueling schedule has the Cardinals as prepared as they could possibly be for this stage, especially in the defensive third. Stalwart goalkeeper Jill Medvecky, a backline led in part by Addie Collins and Averie Hull and Mackenzie Culler as a holding mid have keyed Mentor conceding just 11 goals and recording 12 clean sheets this fall. In the attack, Makenzie Stuckert's pace and first touch afford more leniency with service into space from midfield, which is an asset this time of year when goals on the counter are so vital. At its best, this is a side that is crisp on first touches, connected well in combo play, maintains shape and maximizes set pieces. All of that said, don't let Magnificat's record fool you. Any side that's knocking off Medina in a district final and playing the schedule the Blue Streaks do is obviously formidable. Freshman Lexi Hradek (eight goals) is their top scorer in a balanced attack with seniors Grace Cole (five) and Caitlin Martin (four) and more. Freshman Kalli Sdrakas netted the match-winner in the stunner over the Bees. As it should be this time of year, this will be an uphill trek for the Cardinals. But provided their midfield ballwinning is on point, they limit Hradek's touches and are timely on set pieces and the counter with Medvecky and Stuckert leading the charge, this could be doable.