GIRLS SOCCER: Utica Ford slips past Troy Athens in shootout

| June 4, 2014 | Comments (0)


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STERLING HEIGHTS — Nikki Topping made a promise to the Utica Ford seniors that they would not attend prom Wednesday wearing frowns on their faces.

Topping lived up to her words.

The junior goalkeeper made five saves in the second half and two overtime periods and then turned aside two more shots in a shootout, in helping Utica Ford post a 1-0 victory over Troy Athens in a Division 1 regional semifinal at Sterling Heights Stevenson.

“I couldn’t let the seniors go to prom with a loss. No way. We had to win this game,” said topping, who stopped Athens’ first and fifth shooters in the shootout to give her team the win.

Utica Ford converted its first, second, fourth and fifth penalty shots, with sophomore Molly Vanderhoff banking her kick of the goal post and into the net on the fifth shot which proved to be the deciding factor. Topping stopped Athens senior Kendall Wachowski on the ensuring shot to send the Falcons into a postgame frenzy.

“Coach (Teri) Steinwascher always tells us to make sure the ball doesn’t drop down into the (field) and roll into the goal,” said Topping, who shared the shutout with Meghan Bogg, who played the first half. “I deflected it up and I had to wait and see if it was going to come back down (in play) or not before I could celebrate.”

Utica Ford, which captured its first district since the mid-1990s last week, advanced to Friday’s regional finals at Stevenson against the winner of the Grosse Pointe South-Macomb Dakota regional contest. This is the furthest the Falcons have ever advanced in the girls soccer postseason.

“I have been in the building since (1999) and we have never even won a district until this season,” admitted Steinwascher. “This is a great accomplishment for these girls. We haven’t been this far since I have been here.”

Utica Ford, which tied Athens 1-1 in early April when both teams were shorthanded, had the better of the play in the first half, holding a 4-1 shots edge. Athens clawed back with some pressure and a 7-5 shots advantage over the next 40 minutes. Over the two 10-minute overtime periods, both teams fired one shot.

Utica Ford (15-4-1) held an overall 10-9 shots edge in the game, including 6-5 with shots on frame.

“I knew it was going to be close,” offered Steinwascher. “We played them early in the year and tied them 1-1.We knew they had a great center back and their goalie is phenomenal. We expected this type of game and I wasn’t surprised (in it reaching a shootout).

Neither team could generate many quality scoring chances, although Athens’ Ashley Leonard headed a second-half cornerkick during a wild goal mouth scramble right to Topping with 5:01 left in regulation, which was the Red Hawks’ best scoring chance.

Freshman Cecilia Steinwascher hit a shot just wide of the post midway through the first half on a give-and-go play that was the Falcons’ best opportunity.

Athens went through a rebuilding season that ended with an 8-6-10 overall mark, with the 10 ties a school record. The Red Hawks’ six losses also featured four one-goal games.

“We were a little down early in the season, but we got better as the season moved along,” said Athens coach Todd Heugh. “We didn’t do so well in the OAA Red (Division) this year but the one thing it teaches you is to be competitive. I think that’s one of the reasons why we made it here.”


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