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GIRLS SOCCER: Grand Blanc edges Troy Athens to reach D-1 state finals

| June 10, 2015 | Comments (0)

BY DAN STICKRADT

SENIOR EDITOR

dan.stickradt@northoaklandsports.com

Twitter: @LocalSportsFans

ROCHESTER — Grand Blanc’s upset train continued to roll through the Division 1 postseason and its final destination is the end of the line: the state championship match.

The Bobcats, honorable mention in polls, tripped up it heir third straight top 10 team Wednesday, this time coming in the D-1 state semifinals, in the form of a 1-0 shutout of No. 5 Troy Athens at Rochester High.

“We know that in Division 1 it’s so tough with so many good teams,” said Grand Blanc coach Greg Kehler. “We know how hard it is to get this far. We found a way. We knew ever since the district finals that it was going to be a tough road. We beat Davison in a shootout in the district finals. We beat (top-ranked Rochester) Stoney Creek in a shootout in the regional finals and we beat the defending state champions, Northville, in the regional finals just to get here. Then we win another one-goal game in the semifinals.”

The Bobcats (18-5-5) advanced to the state finals for only the second time in school history and first time since 2004 and will face the winner of the Saline-East Kentwood state semifinal at 4 p.m. Saturday at Old College Field on the campus of Michigan State University.

Athens, ranked fifth entering the postseason, finished the year 16-5-4.

Grand Blanc finally broke the stalemate with 29:42 remaining in the contest.

Senior Annie Walker picked off a pass along the sidelines and made a long pass over to freshman Morgen Metzger, whose chip shot from 15 yards out eluded Athens goalkeeper Amanda Harris to the top shelf.

The tally proved to be the game-winner in a contest where Grand Blanc held an 8-4 shots edge, including 5-1 with shots directly on frame. Nicole Nadolski picked up the shutout for the Bobcats.

“Morgen scored a great goal,” said Walker, one of the leading candidates for Miss Soccer. “I know I started the play, but the ball came over to her on a bounce and she volleyed it in. That was a great goal.”

Although a state powerhouse for more than three decades, Grand Blanc has never won a state title in boys or girls soccer. The Bobcats lost in the boys soccer Class A/Division 1 finals in 1987 and 2012, while the girls counterpart dropped their only state finals appearance 11 years ago.

“”We have a great history and I think we are gaining a lot of confidence beating all these (ranked) teams,” said Walker. “We believe that we can beat anybody in the state. It’s so exciting to be p,laying in the state finals as a senior.”

Athens, which reached the state semifinals for the first time since 2000, hit a snag with two midfielders going down with injuries. Still the Red Hawks stayed even with the Bobcats and nearly took a 1-0 lead with 32:01 left when Ashley Leonard ripped a shot off the crossbar.

“Soccer can be a game of inches,” offered Athens coach Todd Heugh, who only had three seniors on his roster. “Five minutes before their goal, we hit one off the crossbar. If that was an inch or two lower, we’re the ones playing with a 1-0 lead. It was that close.

“I’m still proud of our girls. We got hit by the injury bug a little bit losing two central midfielders. But it’s not like we chased the game. We held our own. The difference was just one play,” said Heugh. “We had a great season. We still played in the state semifinals. You have to enjoy these moments because you never know when it might happen. Our girls set forth to add some banners to gym wall this season. We still added three banners (league, district and regionals) and we came a goal away from playing on the final day of the season. We had an incredible season.”

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About Dan Stickradt: DAN STICKRADT | SENIOR EDITOR dan.stickradt@northoaklandsports.com View author profile.

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