For the first 30-minutes of Thursday’s varsity soccer match between Saline and Skyline, two of the state’s best teams went at each other, blow-for-blow.
With 9:50 to play in the first half, John Bakker streaked down the left wing and fired a shot into the Saline goal to give Skyline a 1-0 lead. The Eagles scored again early in the second half and added another late in the game to win 3-0.
Saline came into the match undefeated in the SEC – with its only blemish the 2-2 tie at Skyline. The Eagles had two ties, against Saline and Pioneer, so the Hornets were atop the SEC Red standings. The victory puts Skyline in the driver’s seat – although a very tough SEC Red field of teams is nipping at its heels.
“I think there are many lessons we can take from this game,” Saline coach Ryan Williams said. “I think once we fell behind we were a bit to selfish with the ball. We are at our best when we share the ball and we got away from that tonight.”
Saline had several chances to score early, including two corner kicks and a couple of free kicks. Saline’s best chance came when Ryan Nichols dished a nifty short pass to Mitch Kalitta near the right sideline. Kalitta found enough space to fire a dangerous shot. Goalie Russell Noble made a great diving stop to maintain the scoreless game.
“I thought Mitch was our best player tonight. Skyline has two great goalies and that save was an important one. It might have been a different game if we score first,” Williams said.
Skyline went ahead after a turnover at midfield. Bakker raced up the left wing and fired a low shot past Quinn Fox.
“Bakker is one of the best players in the state. If he has that kind of room he’s tough to stop,” Williams said.
The goal seemed to take some of the wind out of Saline’s sales. Skyline poured pressure on for the remainder off the half.
Jack Ammerman scored the backbreaker early in the second half.
“You want to come out in the second half and take control and instead the scored to go up two. That hurt,” Williams said.
Skyline added a third goal.
Logan Dejanovich came the closest to scoring for Saline, ringing a shot off the cross bar late in the half.
It was the last regular season contest between Saline and Skyline, ranked number one in the state.
“We won’t meet again unless it’s in the semifinals. They have a good chance to get there,” Williams said. “We’d certainly love the chance to face them again.”
The Michigan Power Rodding 3 Stars
- Mitch Kalitta – The small and speedy Hornet found a way to get open and generate good scoring opportunities for the Hornets.
- North York – The ball seems to follow York around the field – a testament to his understanding of the game.
- Zeke Gray – Couldn’t find the scoreboard, but like Nichols and Sweier, Gray was constantly driving the play toward the Skyline goal.