The Lady Hornets are district champs.
Saline defeated Belleville 3-0 in the MHSAA District 5 championship game at Saline High School Friday evening. Hannah Bird, Emma Wright and Bella Petrock scored for Saline.
Saline will play Woodhaven in the regionals semifinal at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday at Dearborn High School. The other side of the bracket has not been determined. It will be filled by the winners of the Plymouth-Salem game and the Novi-Livonia Stevenson game.
It was a satisfying victory for the Saline girls, who were knocked out of the playoffs by Pioneer in the district tournament last year.
“It feels good, especially after beating Pioneer yesterday and getting revenge on them,” said Saline senior Hannah Bird. “To come out and beat a team that we’ve never played before feels awesome.”
Friday’s 3-0 victory more lopsided that the score suggests. Saline didn’t allow a single shot on goal. Keeper Annika Udrys posted another shutout, but she rarely even had to play the game Friday.
Coach Ryan Williams praised the team’s defensive play.
“Belleville has scored a lot of goals this year. To keep them off the board and not give up much in the way of chances was impressive,” Williams said. “Defensively, our girls have been playing so well.”
The Hornets had the pedal the floor from the opening. They stole the ball and immediately went on the attack. Three minutes into the game, the Hornets were awarded a free kick from the left wing, about 20 yards out, but the kick went wide. A minute later, freshman Emily Eitzman sliced through the defense and fired a shot that was caught by the goalie. A minute Hornet pressure led to a corner kick, but the deflection glanced wide. About eight minutes into the game, Eitzman chased down a ball in the left corner before it went out of bounced. With her back to the defender, she played it between both their legs, spun around and got there first. He centering attempt was blocked.
At 8:40, Saline opened the scoring. Tate Robison crossed a ball into the box, but high. 5’1 Hannah Bird leaped between two defenders and headed the ball over the goalie’s outstretched hands and into the goal. Saline led 1-0.
“Tate played a fantastic cross. Hannah’s not known for heading. She’s only 5’1. But she got up and did her job. Tate has been money on the wing for us, playing some beautiful balls in,” Williams said.
About six minutes later, Morgan Jones jumped into the play, raced past a mark and toward the middle before firing a shot wide of the goal.
Over the next few minutes, Robison and Abbey Bowen had their shots stopped. Midway through the half Alyssa Stavros found herself all alone with the keeper. Her hard shot bounced of the goalie’s shins all the way out of the box.
With 16:20 to play, Saline nearly scored again. This time, Eitzman took the ball deep in Saline territory, rushed up the right side, raced toward the middle and then got all the way to the Belleville box before shooting. Her low shot was stopped by the goalie. She played the ball out back to Hannah Bird, who fired a shot that was stopped by the goalie. Eitzman hustled and beat the goalie to the loose ball for the rebound. She played it back into the box but there were no Hornets there to capitalize.
Finally, with 12:46 to play in the half, Emma Wright scored for the Hornets. Robison played the ball into the box on a corner. The goalie tipped it, but it got past her. Wright powered the ball through a crowd in front of the goal to make it 2-0.
“We’d seen Belleville play a few times and felt they struggled marking and that playing balls in the box would be a great opportunity for us. So it was great to get a couple goals that way,” Williams said.
“We had a lot of opportunities and would have liked to have finished a little more,” Williams said. “We do have to find a way to finish more.”
Saline continued to press. Stavros played a ball just wide of the goal.
At 5:16, junior Bella Petrock scored with a beautiful shot from 35 yards. After taking a pass from Morgan Jones, she kicked a ball that soared just over the goalie’s hands but under the crossbar.
“She’s done it since her freshman year. If she has the space, she has a great leg. We encourage her to shoot more and more, so we were really happy she didn’t hesitate,” Williams said. “It was a 2-0 game with five minutes left in the first half. We knew that next goal was key. So it was huge.”
Saline continued to attack but didn’t score again, despite several quality chances.
Now the Hornets turn their focus to next week’s regional tournament.
The Hornets are on a roll. They won 14 straight games. They have not allowed a goal in 15 games. And now they have a post-season trophy. Williams likes his team.
“Early on we struggled to find our identity. Once we figured out the pieces of the puzzle and everyone understood their role, they’ve come together. Everyone is in it for the team and I think that’s the reason why we’re successful,” Williams said. “We’re performing well and the girls are having fun being around each other. It’s a special group.”
So just how good is this group? How far can they go?
“This team can compete with anyone on any given day. Defensively, we don’t give up goals. So we’re going to have to continue to find ways to attack and find the back of the net. But we like our chances, whoever we face,” Williams said.
It won’t be easy. The competition should only get tougher and the team has caught an injury bug. Devin Reilly and Annika Dahlmann are out for the season.