BY JAKE LOURIM
FARMINGTON — There was one key difference between Troy and Plymouth Canton heading into their girls soccer state semifinal matchup Wednesday.
“(Coach Brian Zawislak) said before the game — we’ve been here before and they haven’t,” Troy forward Madison Hirsch said. “So let’s show them how to play in this kind of game.”
The Colts did just that.
Hirsch and senior Irene Young each scored in Wednesday’s Division 1state semifinal game to lift Troy to a 2-1 victory over Canton at Farmington High School.
In the ninth minute, Young had the ball on the right side and played it right down the middle for an open Hirsch, who hammered it past the goalkeeper to put Troy up a goal.
“(Hirsch) made a really good run without the ball, and she broke off from the defenders, so it was an easy ball,” Young said.
Canton came out firing after that, outshooting Troy 4-0 for the rest of the half. The Chiefs were within inches of an equalizer a couple times.
Troy’s Alison Holland produced just as she has the whole tournament. The junior goalkeeper commanded her box, controlled the ball at her feet, and stayed composed all day.
Once, Canton struck a perfect header towards Holland, who dove and tipped it just wide.
“I was expecting that through-ball to come in, and I just reacted off the header, because I was all ready for the ball to come in on that side,” Holland said.
Another time, the Chiefs hit a hard shot that looked like it was heading in, until Holland jumped up and poked it just over the bar.
“She reads the game really well,” Zawislak said. “She made some saves up high that a lot of keepers don’t get to.”
Then, the Colts went to the locker room, and Zawislak gave them one message.
“It’s your game to win.”
Troy came back one minute after Holland’s tournament-high eighth save. Senior Jenn Busk served a corner kick into the box, and the Canton goalie and a Troy player got tangled in the box. The result was a penalty kick was Young.
“That’s what we’ve been practicing in practice — stay on everything, don’t let it out,” Hirsch said.
Zawislak said he knew from Young’s first touch of the game, she was going to have a great game. He was right.
Calm and composed, Young stepped up and blistered the kick into the right side of the net without even a dive.
Just when it looked like Troy was going to coast to the state final, things got interesting in the last eight minutes. Canton got another ball through and finally got one past Holland into the corner of the net. That made it a one-goal game again.
The Chiefs scrambled to try to get an equalizer, but they couldn’t. They only managed one more measly shot on goal.
In the last couple minutes, Troy started to smell it. The Colts are headed back to Michigan State for another state finals appearance, even hungrier than last year.
“They’re so geeked to get back there and try to bring a title home,” Zawislak said. “They put themselves in a position, and at this point it could be a bounce out of here.”
For the second straight year, it will be a tough challenge. The Colts will take on No. 2 Okemos, which ousted fourth-ranked Rochester Adams 1-0 in overtime Wednesday. Zawislak said that the Chieftains were “stacked”.
Okemos is 23-1-1. Its six wins have been against Brighton, Lansing Everett, Hartland, East Kentwood, Grandville, and Adams. The combined score is 15-0, though eight of those were in the Lansing Everett game.
One thing Okemos doesn’t have, though: state finals experience.
(Jake Lourim is a junior at Troy High School and a member of the AdaVan Media Group / www.northoaklandsports.com Student Correspondence Program. He is publisher of website www.troycoltsportsupdate.com and a member of the Troy school newspaper editorial staff. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)