It might have been opening night, but on set pieces, the Saline Hornets varsity soccer team was in mid-season form.
(For video highlights, click here)
The Hornets scored two first-half goals on corner kicks and held on for a 3-1 opening-night victory over Troy Athens at Saline High School Tuesday night.
Sophomore Jake Cohen scored a goal and assisted on another. Seniors Sean Corcoran and Zach LeRolland-Wagner also scored for Saline. Senior Andrew Prince set up both corner kick goals and played tenaciously at midfield. Chris Graber and Liam Foster played goal. Graber made several key stops early in the game when the RedHawks were pressing the Hornets. Foster made a few sensational saves in the second half, with the RedHawks taking chances to get back in the game.
Troy Athens seemed to dictate play early in the game but the Hornet defense prevented dangerous scoring opportunities and Graber handled everything that came his way. Midway through the half, Saline started moving the ball. Prince put a hard shot on goal and LeRolland-Wagner blasted a shot off the field goal upright over the net. 26 minutes into the half, the Hornets were awarded a corner kick. Prince’s corner kick to the top of the crease was headed toward the goal by a Hornet. On the way, another Hornet got his foot on the ball. Troy’s goalie dove to make the stop and had no chance when Cohen ripped the rebound into the gaping net.
Graber made two big stops with the Hornets up by a goal.
The second goal, with eight minutes to play in the half, was a mirror image of the first. Prince’s corner kick was headed on goal. The Troy goalie knocked it down but straight to Corcoran, who booted it into the goal.
“Being able to convert on set plays is so important, especially early in the season when you’re not always clicking on the field in every situation. At the beginning of the season, it’s one of the only things you know you can control,” Saline coach Dana Restrick said.
The RedHawks controlled the play for most of the second half. Foster made several big stops to keep the Hornets up by two.
“They came out hard in the second half and we were on our heels for the first 10 or 15 minutes. We were able to survive it and then we scored that third goal to give us the breathing room,” Restrick said.
The Hornets put it away with 13:47 to play on a goal off the transition. Saline broke up a play in their end and Cohen went streaking up the right wing with the ball. Cohen worked past his defender and threaded a perfect pass through the defense to LeRolland-Wagoner, who one-timed the pass into the bottom left corner for a 3-0 lead.
“It was a big debut for Cohen. He’s a sophomore and he just scored a goal and an assist in his first varsity game,” Restrick said.
Troy Athens finally put a goal with 7:14 to play, but the Hornets kept the RedHawks at bay the remainder of the game.
Restrick said the game recalled last year’s opening night victory over Troy Athens.
“It was similar to last year’s opener, which could have gone either way, but we managed to pull it out. They had their opportunities and we were able to capitalize. Sometimes it just goes your way,” Restrick said.
Restrick praised the play of senior co-captain Prince, who set up both corner kicks and was always near the ball.
"He's a four-year varsity starter and senior captain. He's a tremendous player who works so hard and makes great decisions. He's a great example for the others on the team," Restrick said.
Saline visits Northville Thursday.
The junior varsity team tied Troy Athens 0-0. The freshman team won 11-0.