Bella Petrock and Emily Eitzman scored and goalie Annika Udrys posted yet another shutout as Saline bested Skyline, 2-0, to open the MHSAA Division 1 girls soccer playoffs.
Saline will play Pioneer in the district semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday, at Saline High School.
After going 10 regular season conference games without giving up a goal, Saline opened the district tournament with another shutout of an SEC Red Rival.
Tuesday’s contest was fast and physical. With about 15 minutes left in the first half, each team committed fouls that resulted in free kicks over a six minute stretch. Skyline had one from about 30 yards that went high and wide.
With 7:49 to play in the half, a Skyline girl went up and over the back of Saline senior Sydney Jarvela inside the box. The Hornets, much to the dismay of the Eagles, were awarded a penalty kick.
Coach Ryan Williams chose junior midfielder Bella Petrock for the kick. The ball was placed on the 12-yard line. Petrock waited about 45 seconds for the Skyline goalie to ready herself beside the goal. Then the goalie stepped in front of the goal, turned her back to Petrock, and jumped up and down, touching the crossbar.
Finally, when the keeper was ready, Petrock calmly kicked the ball to the goalie’s left into the net. Although she didn’t look it, Petrock admitted she was a little nervous.
“She took a long time getting up to the line. I was just kind of waiting. She did a bunch of theatrics trying to touch the bar. All the girls behind me were like ‘Oh, she’s going to kick it over.’ But I pulled it, so I was pretty excited,” Petrock said.
Coach Williams was confident Petrock was prepared for the moment.
“She doesn’t let things bother her. We have a lot of confidence in her. That’s tough to stand there and hold your focus. But she was calm and collected and had a great finish,” Williams said.
Saline took the 1-0 lead into halftime.
Skyline came out hungry for a goal early in the second half. In the opening minute, a goal-mouth scramble led to a Skyline player heading the ball toward a gaping part of the Saline cage. But keeper Annika Udrys sprinted over and caught the ball to escape trouble. She played the ball up field and it made its way to Tate Robison, who streaked up the left wing and crossed the ball to the middle. The ball deflected off the Skyline keeper to the oncoming Emily Eitzman, who got to the loose ball and kicked it past the goalie for a 2-0 lead.
“I made sure I was there to rebound it. (Tate) did a really good job getting it in the box,” Eitzman said.
It was a huge goal.
“It’s important in either half to get the early goal to start us off and give us confidence,” Eitzman said.
Coach Williams said the goal was huge, especially after Skyline came out hard for the equalizer.
“We talked about Skyline coming out with intensity. And for the first 40 seconds of the second half they started taking it to us. So to come back with a counter attack and score was important,” Williams said. “They wanted to get one early and put us on our heels. Instead we got it. Defensively, we’ve been so solid all year. So we knew that second goal was going to be huge.”
Goalie Annika Udrys collected her 13th straight shutout. She made several tough saves in this one. Her best came a little later in the second half on a corner kick, when she got her hands on a ball that seemed like it was spinning into an open part of the cage.
Williams said that Udrys is in the midst of a “quiet, amazing, amazing season.”
“I don’t think she’s got the credit she deserves. She doesn’t get tested a ton, but when she does, he reaction time and ability to be in the right place at the right time is incredible,” Williams said. “She’s been doing this all year.”
Udrys credited the team in front of her.
“The defense, the mids and everyone in front – the team defense is really good on this team. It really helps to get the shutout when the team defense is as good as they are,” Udrys said.
Now the team focuses on Pioneer. Saline tied Pioneer 0-0 the first time they played this year. Saline won the second game, 1-0.
But the game that many Saline players have fresh in their minds is the district final, last year, when Pioneer eliminated Saline.
“We have a lot of heat coming out because they took us out last year in districts,” Petrock said. “We’ve got to remember to keep our heads in it, we can’t get too fired up.”
Williams said Saline knows Pioneer is a strong team.
“Defensively they are very well organized, so we’re going to have to try be patient and figure a way to pull them away from their shape,” Williams said. “It’ll be a good game, so I’m excited.”
The winner advances to the district championship at 7 p.m., Friday, at Saline High School.