Ever since they defeated McDowell 4-1 in their season finale a week ago, the Warren Dragons have been playing the waiting game.
So what's one more day?
They've known for quite some time that they are Region 4 champions, earning a bye in the first round of the District 10 Class AA playoffs, and they now know they'll be playing in the semifinals on Thursday night.
Times Observer photo by Jonathan McAfoos
Phil Hachula congratulates Matt Sandberg during a match this season. Warren opens in the District 10 Class AA quarterfinals on Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s Conneaut vs. General McLane match.
They just don't know quite yet who their opponent will be, or where they'll be playing.
Originally, Conneaut and General McLane were scheduled to play on Monday in a play-in game, but Sandy pushed that back to Wednesday. Warren was scheduled to play the winner on Wednesday, but will now play on Thursday at a site and time to be determined.
Warren coach Tom Harrington doesn't think the layoff - or the fact that his team won't be aware of their opponent until 24 hours before their game - will hurt his team.
"It doesn't bother us at all," he said. "If anything, it puts us at an advantage because they (Thursday's opponent) might have tired legs coming in, because they won't have a day off in between games."
The Dragons haven't faced Conneaut, but defeated McLane, who happens to be the defending District 10 champion, 4-2, in their final home game of the season.
"General McLane is very good at times and other times they struggle," Harrington said. "They played Harbor Creek very tough. They didn't play us very well in the first half, but they outplayed us in the second half. We have to expect that they're going to play well if it's them. I haven't seen Conneaut play, so I don't know much about them."
Warren's offense is led by a strong group of seniors, including captains Matt Sandberg and Liam Boger, as well Hunter Mohney. Sandberg led the team with 30 goals, to go along with 11 assists, while Mohney was second with 16 goals. Boger finished with nine goals and led the team with 18 assists.
The Dragons' attack doesn't fall strictly on the senior class, however. Sophomores Joseph Bell and Quinn Boger added six goals each and junior foreign exchange student Phil Hachula finished second on the team in assists with 13.
If Warren has success finding the back of the net, the defense typically excels at holding leads. Led by captain Shane Burns, the Dragons have a meager 1.16 goals-against average. Nate Sandberg and Clark Eason have both played strong in goal.
"The guys are looking good right now (in practice)," said Harrington, whose Dragons are 14-4 overall with eight shutouts, and have won five in a row. "Their spirits are high and their movement is good. I gave them three days off to get them refreshed and they look good.
"We need to control the ball, and we need good movement away from the ball," Harrington said. "If we have good field awareness and good passing, the goals will come."
One year ago, Warren followed up its best regular season in program history with a disappointing loss on penalty kicks to North East in its first playoff game. The defeat is almost certainly lingering in the minds of some of the Dragons' upperclassmen.
Conneaut was third in Region 1 (all Class A) at 9-7-2 overall and 6-3-2 in the region. McLane was second in Region 5 at 10-6-2 overall and 8-1-1 in the region.
Like every season, Warren's goal is not to win just one game, but to become District 10 champions - like they did two years ago for the first time in the program's history. Many on this year's team were part of that group.
"I don't know if there's any additional motivation (needed)," said Harrington. "Every game you play in the playoffs could be the last game for the seniors, and they all want to go out on a very positive note. Last year was a letdown for those seniors because they expected to go farther."