Anthony Sweier and Matt Kocibelli scored and Nolan Krause made several stops as Saline defeated Jackson, 2-0, in the district semifinal Tuesday at Saline High School. The Hornets will host Skyline in the district final at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Coach Ryan Williams was happy to get the win, even if he didn’t think the Hornets played their best game.
“We did what we had to do. We grinded the game out. But I don’t feel we had our best game tonight. It was our first playoff game and you could tell we were a little tight,” Williams said. “But anytime you are in the post-season, I don’t care who your opponent is, they’re going to give you their best effort. Careers are on the line.”
The Hornet attack looked hesitant early, even though Saline pushed the play toward the Jackson goal. Saline put the first shot on goal four minutes into the affair when Chris Chuparkhoff redirected a shot that the goalie scooped up.
Saline’s first good chance came about six minutes in when Sweier fired a shot about six feet over the goal from 30 yards out.
Despite Saline pushing the pace, it was Jackson who was awarded the first corner. The Saline defense, led by captain Cole Larance, kept Jackson from putting a shot on goal.
About 10 minutes into the game, the Hornets were awarded a corner but couldn’t gain possession. The ball went out of bounds and Saline received another corner. Again, the Hornets couldn’t develop any offense.
Finally, 16 minutes into the half, Saline lit the scoreboard. Ryan Nichols threaded a pass ahead to Anthony Sweier, who slid into the pass and kicked the ball back to the other corner of the goal to beat the keeper.
The Hornets continued to apply pressure. From 25 yards out Aaron Mentzer ripped a shot just a little high and wide.
About 24 minutes into the half, Krause was tested for the first time. A midfielder played it ahead for an attacker, who went speeding toward the Saline goal. Krause got there first but the ball deflected to another Jackson forward. The Saline defense was there to protect what would have been a wide open goal and the shot was deflected harmlessly out of bounds.
Gabe Walder used his speed to create another offensive chance for Saline. He sped by two Jackson defenders along the left wing and then centered a pass across the crease, just out of the reach of Jacob Herner.
Despite carrying the play, Saline led by the slimmest margin after a period.
It didn’t take long for Saline score in the second. Mitchell Kalitta centered a pass between two defenders to Kocibelli, standing at the top of the box. Kocibelli one-touched the pass past the keeper. Saline led 2-0.
Play evened after Saline’s second goal, but the Hornets were never in jeopardy.
Now the Hornets turn their attention to the Skyline Eagles. Undefeated Skyline defeated Saline 3-2 and 2-1 in SEC matchups this season.
Williams said Saline and Skyline play a similar game.
“Whoever wins the center-mid battle and does a better job with the transition from offense to defense will dictate the game,” Williams said. “They are a fast team. They do a good job getting numbers forward and into the attack. If we can intercept passes and create a counter attack and get numbers ourselves, we can be successful.”