George Nageeb was joking Oct. 28 after University’s Division I district final against Lake Catholic — but the standout senior midfielder had a point. Asked about workrate amid conditions at Riverside hovering around 40 degrees, Nageeb quipped, “It’s beautiful outside. What are you talking about?”
What the thermometer read was far from beautiful.
But the display on the pitch by US certainly was — and it’s why the faithful in Hunting Valley can rightfully talk about the Preppers’ chances to make a deep charge into November.
Griffin Meyer had a hat trick, Nageeb delivered a second-half brace and US blew open what had been a tight match in the first 30 for a 7-1 win over Lake.
US (15-2-2) will face Hudson, a 2-1 winner over Stow-Munroe Falls, in a D-I regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 at Solon. From a school renowned for its eventual doctorate candidates, its soccer side was clinical, with 13 shots on target in what became an attacking flow masterclass.
“I think we like to play for each other,” Nageeb said. “We have a lot of threats, both on offense and we have a lot of great defenders. It’s easy for us to open things up when everybody is doing their job, and that’s what we did tonight. It really worked for us.”
US, which is now 10-4-1 against Lake since 2005, seized control in a 12-minute, 32-second span bridging halftime. First it was Meyer getting a touch to his left foot and slotting a strike wide right for a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute, then a free kick tally on an outswinger in the 38th, his team-high 19th goal of 2017.
Then Nageeb collected an unselfish ball across the box from Enea Cominelli and took care of the finish 26 seconds into the second half. The senior midfielder pounced again in the 47th. Meyer served a free kick in, Jacob Duijser had a header turned away, but Nageeb cleaned up the rebound for his 14th goal of the fall and a 4-0 advantage.
“It’s a clinical finish,” Nageeb said of the third goal. “I didn’t really think about it. It’s something you’ve got to do for your teammate, and it really opened up the entire second half and changed the entire pace of the game.”
Lake (7-10-2) showed promise in the first half-hour with its possession and off-ball movement, but couldn’t quite carry it over. Cougars coach Ivica Medukic was effusive in his praise for his senior class, including standout attacker Ivan Babic, and the imprint they left on the program.
“That was pretty much my speech was you can’t ever get a group of players to say they’re going to do this: Four straight district finals, two district championships, a regional final — this year, only the third conference championship in school history,” Medukic said. “Brutal schedule, but they love it. They came together. We made another run. It wasn’t our night, but I’m going to miss every single one of them because they made my job a little easier.”