By Jeff Wallner, Enquirer contributor
About the only thing Mason’s boys soccer team didn’t gain from Tuesday night’s scoreless tie at Lakota West was a victory. The tie earned the Comets their second consecutive Greater Miami Conference championship, and a stern challenge from the Firebirds also could prove beneficial for them in the postseason.
“To survive a battle like this will help us,” said Comets coach Paul Reedy. “You’re going to have games likes this late in the season. Inevitably it’s going to happen. We accomplished our major regular season goal which was to win the conference.”
Mason, ranked No. 1 in both the Enquirer Division I coaches’ poll and state poll, and Lakota West, ranked No. 3 in the Enquirer poll, finished deadlocked after 80 minutes.
It’s been a tightly-contested matchup in recent years with Mason winning six of 11 regular season and postseason meetings since 2005.
That Tuesday night’s match was a tight, low-scoring affair came as no surprise. The only goal Mason has allowed this season was on Sept. 12 at Hamilton. Lakota West has allowed only five goals.
“They’re really, really good,” said Firebirds coach Rick Cooper of Mason. “We had better opportunities in the second half. But we were able to hold on.”
The Firebirds missed a scoring chance in the game’s first minute when Evan Miller fired a shot just left of goal.
Mason (13-0-1) got its first shot on goal at the 24-minute mark of the first half, but Jack Clark’s shot sailed high. Moments later, Comets junior Jude Iroh caromed a shot off the right post.
The Firebirds (11-2-2) had a nervous moment when Iroh collided with keeper Jake Mutlu, who remained in the game following a brief injury timeout.
Mason’s Bryce Curran’s shot went wide late in the half and the game remained scoreless at halftime.
The second half began in much the same manner with neither team able to take advantage of its few scoring opportunities.
After Mason was called for a high kick, Jose Corona delivered a free kick toward the center of the goal but it was deflected away.
Iroh narrowly missed again moments later with a shot over the crossbar. Clark’s bicycle kick with under three minutes remaining was the Comets’ last chance, and it sailed high.
But Mason began celebrating its GMC title as the final seconds ticked off the clock. It’s the first time the Comets have won back-to-back titles since joining the league in 2007.
“It was a really big goal for us,” said Clark, the 2012 Enquirer Division I player of the year and a University of Cincinnati commit.
Play of the game: Both teams missed several scoring chances in Tuesday’s game, but Lakota West missed the first one when Miller saw an opening but shot wide left.
View from the sideline: “We want competitive games like this,” said Cooper. “We know if we can play with Mason, we can play with anyone in the state of Ohio.”
Extra points: Both teams begin sectional play on Saturday, Oct. 19. Lakota West, a No. 3 seed, faces the winner of Glen Este and Anderson at 2 p.m. Mason, the top seed, plays Mt. Healthy at 11:30 a.m.
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