TROY — You had a tough decision last Sunday, Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association panel.
You had to select the All-State girls soccer players for the first, second, and third teams, plus honorable mention. That’s no easy task.
That’s why I’m making it easier. The best goalie in the state is Troy junior Alison Holland.
A junior, Holland was terrific all year. She gave up only 13 goals in 25 games with 17 shutouts. Remind you, Holland notched 17 shutouts as a sophomore for a state runner-up team that annually plays a brutally-tough schedule.
And she did it against the best competition in the state: Rochester Adams, Rochester Stoney Creek, Rochester, Troy Athens and Grosse Pointe South twice each, and Division 2 state champion Birmingham Marian, Detroit Birmingham Country Day, and Plymouth Canton once each, among others.
Talk about strength of schedule.
She played just as well Saturday in her second career state championship, but the score — a 2-0 loss to Okemos — won’t reflect that.
Here’s the real story: Holland was all-state in net.
Just five minutes into the game, Okemos sent the ball right down the middle of the field for an open shot, but Holland turned it away.
In the 25th minute, Okemos found some more space on the right side, but Holland dove and poked it just outside the right post. She made another diving save two minutes later.
Two more point-blank saves followed in the second half, and Holland finished with nine stops total.
That’s a walk-in-the-park for Holland.
But, you say, she lost, 2-0. She gave up more goals than she had in the previous 29 days. So how could she possibly, even though the decision’s already been made, be considered the best goalie?
Because she couldn’t really do anything to stop either goal. In the 28th minute, Okemos pulled two players past the Troy back line for a breakaway. Kristelle Yewah had the ball on
the right flank, then passed it into the box for Emma Baker for an easy shot. In the second half, Okemos scored by launching a perfect cross over Holland to the far post for a tip-in.
Okemos goalie Molly O’Connor finished with eight saves, only one less than Holland, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, either. Few of hers were as challenging, although she did turn away Troy junior Nadine Bratu from inside the box in the first half. Holland made two the same way.
“Like I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, I think Alison’s the best goalie in the state,” Troy coach Brian Zawislak said. “She plays against the best competition in the state game in and game out, whereas a lot of people rack up stats against not-as-strong competition. I think she’s the best goalie in the state.”
What’s more, she’s played that way all year. She’s commanded a new back line, she’s used her versatility to get around the box and stop shots, and she’s controlled the ball at her feet to clear the ball. Tips over the bar, dives to her left, dives to her right, punches on restarts — she’s done it all.
Sure, but the other contenders are headed to big-time colleges like Northwestern, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Holland is going to Memphis, which finished last year’s regular season ranked No. 3 in the country at 21-0-1.
There are a lot of good goalies in the state of Michigan.
But even though she didn’t take home the hardware Saturday, Holland is simply the best. She has proven it on the field.
(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 email@example.com)