BOYS SOCCER:  Athens edges Rochester in shootout to advance to state finals

| November 2, 2016 | Comments (0)



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TROY — Mason Maziasz relishes the moment every time he gets to play in a shootout.

“I love them. I live for them,” said the Troy Athens senior goalkeeper. “I don’t mind playing in them at all.”

Maziasz got his chance to play in his second straight shootout of the postseason Wednesday and again he made a save during the tie-breaking event. Meanwhile, his teammates converted all five of their penalty shots in the 5-3 shootout, good for a 2-1 victory over OAA Red Division rival Rochester in the Division 1 state semifinals at Troy High School.

Athens, ranked sixth, will face 19th-ranked East Kentwood in the state title match at 3 p.m. Saturday at Comstock Park High School. 

It marks Athens’ first trip to the state title game since the Red Hawks captured the D-1 title in 1997.

“We know about the (Athens) history and we’re trying to make our own history, “ said Maziasz. “We’re like brothers and we want to win the state championship more than anything.”

In the shootout, Andy Filips, Yusuf Uzhunnan, Cole Valentine, Anish Saraswat and Shamik Patel scored in succession for Athens. Patel, Athens’ fifth shooter, made sure Rochester wouldn’t get a chance for its fifth shooter, sinking the clincher down the middle of the frame.

Rochester (15-4-5) took a 1-0 lead on its first shot on frame in the game. Senior Demetri Pliakos picked up a steal some 50 yards out from the goal, dribbled down the right side and with three players closing in, ripped a shot from 22 yards out that curled inside the far post with 22:25 remaining in the first half.

Troy Athens came out strong and controlled play in the second half. Applying plenty of pressure, the Red Hawks (19-4-2) finally netted the equalizer with 20:51 to go in regulation.

Senior Greyson Maziasz’s initial shot from 20 yards out was knocked aside by Rochester senior goalkeeper Brad Carlson. Junior Andrew Nord was in position to lace the rebound into the net from 20 yards away with Carlson still on the ground.

Athens outshot Rochester by a 13-7 margin, including 7-3 with shots directly on frame. Rochester had a 2-1 shots edge during the two 10-minute overtime periods.

The Falcons, who defeated Athens 1-0 back on Sept. 27, had two chances on frame in the first overtime but were stopped cold by Maziasz.

Athens coach Todd Heugh did not want the game to reach a shootout for many reasons.

“I honestly don’t (like them),” said Heugh. “I told the kids going into it, I’m sure they watched us take penalties on Friday and I’m certain they were there yesterday to watch us take penalties. And if they weren’t there yesterday, it was all over the news. I told the guys, go for it. Hit it. I love ya, you played a great game. I looked at their faces in that huddle and they were like all right here we go again. They were great. They’ve been ice for a week.

“All season long, it has been next man up, next man up,” continued Heugh. “Now, I don’t know if I want another shootout — I’m in heart attack mode. But we’ll take (the wins) any way we can get them.”

Rochester tied Athens for third in a loaded OAA Red Division — a conference that featured eight schools that finished above five-hundred — and won one of the state’s toughest districts this season en route to its first Final Four run since 2002.

The tournament journey cmd after Rochester fell out of the top 20 in the Oct. 9 rankings. The Falcons had not lost since a 3-0 setback to Rochester Stoney Creek on Oct. 3.

“We have a lot to be prideful for,” said Rochester coach Chris Purgatori. “Nobody put us in this position, and to be one of the final four teams in the state is an incredible feeling. We’re ultra-disappointed in the outcome. But credit to Athens, they’re a good team.

“I thought the entire second half, Athens controlled the pace of play. They dominated, but I really thought in the overtime that we were the better team,” added Purgatori. “We don’t have anything to be ashamed of. We played to win it in overtime. Just couldn’t get one more in.”

Athens last played in the semifinals since 1998, a 2-0 loss to Novi. That was part of making the Final Four three times in four seasons. The Red Hawks captured their fifth state title in 1997 and lost in the semifinals in 1995.

Rochester's Sid Osborn and Troy Athens' Zac Ayotte during Wednesday's Division 1 state semifinals.

Rochester’s Sid Osborn and Troy Athens’ Zac Ayotte during Wednesday’s Division 1 state semifinals.

“To try to keep the tradition alive of that school (Athens) being a former player there and a former student there, one of our goals was to keep what Tim Storch started and maintain it,” said Heugh. “There are a lot of really good teams who have come through Troy Athens, and every single one of our teams we talk to about leaving their mark and making their mark and what is this year’s team going to do. The 2016 team has been a next man up kind of team. They just keep on keeping on. Any type of adversity that hits them, they’ve taken the punch in the face and they’ve punched right back. It’s not our most talented team, but it’s one of our closest and hardest working.”

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