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GIRLS SOCCER: Leonard’s game-winner lifts Athens past Grosse Pointe North

| June 8, 2016 | Comments (0)

BY DAN STICKRADT

SENIOR EDITOR

dan.stickradt@northoaklandsports.com

Twitter: @LocalSportsFans

TROY — Splash water onto a dam over a long period of time and eventually the concrete will erode away and the levy will break.

Pepper a goalkeeper with a multitude of shots within the penalty box and eventually the numbers will play out and you’ll sneak one into the goal.

Host Troy Athens did just that Tuesday in its Division 1 regional semifinal against Grosse Pointe North.

The 14th-ranked Red Hawks outshot Grosse Pointe North 16-7, including 10-4 with shots directly on frame, but it wasn’t until the 14th shot of the game when Athens finally found the back of the net.

Junior Ashley Leonard netted her team-leading 16th goal of the season with 15:57 left to play and the defense, anchored by senior goalkeeper Amanda Harris, made it stand in a 1-0 shoutout over the unranked Northsmen.

“I kind of like the pressure a little bit. It is my job to score goals,” said Leonard, who has 44 goals over the past two seasons despite regularly being marked by the opposition’s top marking back. “We just kept working tonight and when I got an opportunity and I was able to put one in for my team. We’re moving on.”

Leonard and Lindsey Boots were a pair of threats the whole evening for Athens (15-4-4). Grosse Pointe North tried to make another player other than Leonard beat the Red Hawks, but in the end Leonard came through in the clutch.

“Ashley was her usual self and I thought Lindsey Boots, No. 6, did a great job being a secondary forward, kind of that we have wanted from her all season. She took some of the pressure off of Ashley,” said Athens coach Todd Heugh. “I thought Lindsey was dangerous tonight, too. I know she hit the crossbar and she had a couple of nice chances. So did Ashley. I know they forced us into some difficult, ground-type chances tonight. I thought we were patient and we did a pretty decent job defending on the other end, although we gave up that one late chance. But we’re accustomed to Amanda coming up and making those saves. She’s been that way for four years. It’s a luxury to have a great goalkeeper in the back and a great goal-scorer up top.”

Athens, which has outscored its opposition 37-9 this season over 23 games, picked up its 19th shutout behind Amanda Harris’ four saves.

One of the school’s all-time great goaltenders in the Athens storied history, Harris had to knock away a breakaway from North’s Brittany Johnson with 10 minutes to play to preserve the victory.

“Amanda makes the saves that she’s supposed to and even makes saves that a lot of keepers wont get to,” said Heugh.

“Sometimes just her presence is comfortable. I mean our team is very confident in her. She won’t have to make saves for long stretches of the game because our defenders are playing so well. She comes up big when she has to. She’s always mentally checked in. To have to come up with a big saves late in the game with a 1-0 lead shows you how mentally tough she is.”

Athens will host OAA Red Division rival Rochester Stoney Creek at 7 p.m. Friday in the regional finals, a game that guarantees the league a team in the Four for the fifth straight season.

“I know we’ll be ready for them and I know they’ll be ready for us,” said Leonard. “We’re looking for a great game with them.”

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

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