ANN ARBOR -- Hannah Jarvie scored the game’s only goal as Saline defeated host Skyline to clinch the Michigan High School Field Hockey Regular Season Division 1 regular season championship.
Saline finished the season with a 12-1-1 regular season record to finish with 37 points. Huron and Pioneer each have 33 points, with 11-2 records, and have a game in hand.
The regular season title is yet another notch in the belt for a program that has been on the rise. Coincidentally, it was at Skyline that Saline made its first big splash in the Michigan high school field hockey universe. Four years ago, when today’s seniors were freshmen, Saline won the Division 2 championship at Skyline.
The team has spent the last three years working its way to the top of Division 1.
A win Wednesday guaranteed the top seed in the Division. A loss could have dropped Saline to as low as fourth. With the win, Saline will have a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Saline coach Erica Reilly, who has guided the team from middle-of-the-road Division 2 program to its perch atop Division 1, said her team should be proud of what it accomplished by winning the game and sealing the top spot in the division.
“This was a tremendous feat for our girls and they knew walking into this game they were going to have a lot of pressure on them,” Reilly said. “And what we try to do as coaches is say, ‘look, it’s another game, just go out and play hard.’”
The Hornets did that. They controlled the ball on their sticks most of the game. They forced 12 penalty corners and Skyline had just one. They generated nine shots on goal to Skyline’s one.
At one point early in the first half, Saline had six penalty corners in just a few minutes of time. But while Skyline survived all those penalty corners, and the Hornets felt mounting pressure with each failed corner, Saline rarely relinquished their control of possession.
“I think we fell short of some of our goals. But it was a great win,” Coach Reilly said. “We’re capable of more and I think that’s why we didn’t see a lot of players jumping up and down at the end of the game. It’s OK. They know exactly what they could have accomplished and hopefully this is motivation for future games.”
Senior Hannah Jarvie finally put the Hornets on the scoreboard early in the second half. The Hornets were applying pressure on the Skyline goal and Jarvie got to a loose rebound and chipped it past the goalie and defense into the net.
It was the only goal Saline needed.
“Our defense did a great job locking it down. They have an unorthodox style of play. They send long balls down to cherry pickers. We were prepared for that. We worked on our press to pick up some of those long balls, but some made it through,” Reilly said. “If we see Skyline again in the post-season we will definitely be more prepared.”
Skyline had the Hornets on their heels for one two-minute span with about 14 minutes left to play in the half. Coach Reilly called a timeout. When play resumed, senior Devin Reilly whacked the ball down field and the Hornets regrouped – keeping Skyline penned in their own end for most of the game’s waning moments.
Despite the victory, coach Reilly noticed all the missed opportunities.
“12 penalty corners. We don’t make excuses. It was a super bumpy surface but we’ve got to play on every surface. We will come back hard tomorrow and work on our corners because sometimes it’s your only opportunity for scoring in a game,” Reilly said.
Now, the Hornets turn their attention to the playoffs. As happy as the girls are with a regular season title, there’s a grander goal in mind.
“There is something bigger out there. I said to the girls, ‘if you come into practice tomorrow and move forward executing speed of thought, speed of foot, speed of execution, you should be on the field Oct. 27 in Dexter in the state championship,’” Reilly said.
The Hornets know they have a special team. They’re led by Devin and Erin Reilly and Hannah Jarvie – three girls who will play field hockey for NCAA Division 1 programs. But all season, coach Reilly and the Hornets have been focused on building a team that’s strong from top to bottom.
“We have a tremendous amount of talent at all positions. Even the gals coming in off the bench are ready to go. They’re strong and work hard in practice,” coach Reilly said. “The sky is the limit with this group. We have a lot of experience. We have a couple girls who were on that state championship team. That’s really helping out here.”