GIRLS SOCCER: Rochester spins Troy Athens into its “Webb” to win regional championship

| June 9, 2022 | Comments (0)




TW: @LocalSportsFans | North Oakland Sports



ROCHESTER HILLS – Every since she was in fourth grade basketball, Alaina Webb has garnered the nickname “Superman.”

The superhero label would be more appropriate as “Superwoman” – something that she clearly exemplified Thursday evening.

Webb, a junior forward from Rochester, scored the game’s only goal and the three-sport athlete was seemingly everywhere on the field, as the Falcons edged Troy Athens 1-0 in the Division 1 regional finals at Rochester Adams.

“I just try to do whatever it takes to win,” said the humble Webb, who now has 13 goals on the season. “Our coach always tells us to play like it’s your final opportunity and last chance to be in this position. Today I think we proved that (theory) because we won it. We’re carrying the legacy, tradition and culture of this program to every game.”

The win marks Rochester’s first regional title since 2013 and lifts the Falcons into the Final Four for the fifth time in school history. The Falcons also claimed regional titles and berths into the state semifinals in 1994, 1995, 2007 and 2013.

Fifth-ranked Rochester (17-0-4) will face the winner of top-ranked Northville and unranked Belleville at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Troy Athens with a berth in the Division 1 state finals at stake. The state finals are set for 4 p.m. Friday at Michigan State University’s DeMartin Stadium.

Much like the two team’s first meeting on May 3, Rochester took a lead in the first four minutes. Junior Ella Massa touched the ball over to Webb, who turned and fired a 35-yard shot that tucked under the crossbar with 36:45 remaining in the first half. She did not see her own shot go into the net.

“Ella Massa got me the ball. I turned and I knew there were two people on me, so I kinda shot it – I ripped one from way out and I wasn’t sure if it went in because I fell after I shot it,” added Webb. “But I saw my teammates with their hands up and I knew it went in. It’s the best feeling ever.”

The southernly high winds picked up moments later after Webb’s goal with Rochester struggling to clear the ball from its half of the field. With the wind at their backs, the Red Hawks held a 4-2 shots edge over the first 40 minutes and consistently attacked the Falcons’ defense.

At the beginning of the second half, the rains picked up to a downpour to the southeast, placing a degree of difficulty on both teams’ style of play. Neither team could find the back of the net in the final 76 minutes of play. Rochester outshot Athens 5-4 in the second half.

“We were very fortunate to get the early goal because the weather got really bad and we just survived,” said Rochester coach Doug Steinard. “I mean they were all over us for the last 30 minutes of the first half. We couldn’t get it out of our end. It was not a great game (soccer-wise). But we found a way to hold them off.

“We talk about big players making big plays in big games and Alaina is one of our better players.,” continued Steinard. “We talked about getting balls on frame as much as possible and she did it early. Athens is very organized (defensively) and we knew we wouldn’t get a ton of chances.

Rochester freshman Alice Max notched the shutout on seven saves with defensive help from senior Kennedy Fraser, juniors Leila Lanier and Ella Massa and freshman Emma Barker. It marked the Falcons’ 11th shutout of the campaign and third of the state tournament,. The win was Rochester’s fourth straight over a state-ranked opponent, following victories over Rochester Adams (1-0), Rochester Stoney Creek (2-1), New Baltimore Anchor Bay (2-0) and Troy Athens (1-0).

For the game, Athens outshot Rochester 8-7 and 7-6 with shots on frame. The Red Hawks also held a 5-3 differential on cornerkicks.

Athens reached the state title game last year and the Elite Eight this season but could not find a way to score on Rochester’s stingy bend-but-don’t-break defense this season. The Falcons also defeated the Red Hawks 2-0 on May 3 and went on to win the OAA Red Division league title.

“Anytime you can get to the state semifinals its pretty exciting,” said Steinard. “It’s been a while since Rochester’s been here. They have gone through a difficult path, playing three OAA-Red teams to get here and beating four ranked teams in a row. We beat the (Macomb Area Conference) Red (Division) winner, too, along the way. It hasn’t been easy. You just have to keep riding the wave why you can.”

Athens (16-4-0) couldn’t solve the Falcons’ defense that has yielded only two goals in five tournament games.

“I thought we played good in the first half. I knew it would be tight and we certainly knew they would shoot from distance. They executed on a play and held on,” said Athens coach Todd Heugh, who has coached Athens into the regional finals four times in the last nine seasons as head coach. “I’m super proud of our girls for continuing to battle, make adjustments, and attacking their goal and keep attacking their goal. (Rochester) just defended really well. They didn’t give us very many chances and their goalie played well again.

“I don’t know if we were smart enough on our execution of trying to put the ball low. After Rochester scored that goal our next three shots were high, way up in the air. She picked them all out cleanly and didn’t bobble the ball. We should have tried to shoot low because their goalie is so tall and athletic,” continued Heugh. “She stopped the near-post shot, the one that was really high by the crossbar. I guess what I am most impressed about her is her hands. She just didn’t give us any rebounds.”

Athens, one of the most storied programs dating back to the early 1980s, has reached the regional finals over a dozen times.

“I’m proud of this group because they made two deep runs in the state tournament including reaching the state finals last season and now the final eight teams in the state this year,” noted Heugh. “We know how difficult it is to make it this far playing in this area with so many quality programs. You can’t take it for granted. Two years ago a lot of these upperclassmen made varsity on tryouts before Covid cancelled the season. We had three Division I college players on that team and would have been really good. Could we have made a run? Who knows, maybe? But the talent was there and some of these girls would have played roles on that team. Then last year we made a run to the finals. I’m proud of everything (the seniors) accomplished. 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