In a rematch of the 2015 girls soccer state championship game, Saline faced Grand Blanc Monday night. This time, Grand Blanc came away with a 4-2 victory.
Paige Webber and Faith Webber each scored twice for Grand Blanc. Annika Dahlmann and Bella Petrock scored for Saline.
Saline fell to 1-2 on the season.
Coach Ryan Williams said Grand Blanc returned most of the player’s from last year’s squad, which was ranked in the top five all season.
“We schedule the best teams in the state for a reason. One to test us to see where we are at, right from the start. We want to measure ourselves early to see what level we need to reach to compete with the best,” Williams said.
Saline got itself in trouble about 11 minutes into the game when the defense couldn’t contain the speedy Webber girls. Grand Blanc scored two goals in 44 seconds in nearly identical fashion. The first time it was Faith Webber and the second time it was Paige Webber. Both times, the speedy forwards got a step on the Saline defender, raced up the right wing and booted a shot past the diving junior Saline goalie Annika Udrys.
Williams said the speedy Grand Blanc attack was challenging. He noted that on three of Grand Blanc’s four goals, a Saline defender hesitated to step up and attack the Grand Blanc attacker, and that moment of hesitation proved costly.
:”If you’re going to step you have to fully commit to it or you’re going to get caught in no-man’s land,” Williams said. “They have skill but they also attack with pace. Those are the toughest players to defend. They send waves of numbers.”
Saline didn’t create many scoring chances for the rest of the first half, but the Hornets improved and prevented anymore breakdowns.
Saline’s best chance of the first half came when Alyssa Stavros sprinted up the right wing to catch up to the ball. She curled back to create space and then centered to Emma Brownsberger, who, facing pressure, kicked a shot high and wide. Genesis Pena also had a great chance, knocking down a pass and the leaping to kick a bouncing ball that soared about two feet over the net and into the football upright.
Saline had a couple of free kicks and a corner kick but couldn’t create any scoring chances.
The Hornets were down 2-0 at halftime but seemed poised to battle back.
However, things went wrong immediately for Saline.
Just 34 seconds into the half, Faith Webber burst through the defense to create a two-on-one. She passed to Paige Webber, who blasted a shot past goalie Olivia Bond. Grand Blanc led 3-0.
Saline finally got on the board after Grand Blanc’s physical defense pulled down Marley Duerst on a dangerous rush up the right wing. The refs awarded a penalty shot to Saline. Junior Annika Dahlmann beat the goalie low and to the left.
Expect to hear a lot more from Dahlmann, who left the Michigan Hawks to play for Saline.
“She's a hard-working kid with a lot of talent. She hasn't been around these girls too long but she's become a leader,” Williams said.
About 11 minutes later, Faith Webber made it 4-1. She beat one defender racing up the middle, cut to the left and then turned back and fired a shot. Bond got most of it but the ball found its way into the net.
Devin Reilly had a good scoring chance denied when the aggressive Grand Blanc goalie came screaming out of the net to knock the ball away and send Reilly tumbling over her. With about four minutes left, Stavros made a great curl to make space on the right wing before blasting a shot on goal that was batted away by the keeper.
Petrock scored Saline’s final goal with a brilliant 30-yard blast from the center. The keeper got a hand on it but couldn’t pull it in.
Coach Williams wants to see more of Petrock’s shot.
“I'm glad Bella scored at the end. She has a phenomenal shot. We talk to her about shooting more often. I think she only had one shot today. I want her shooting five to eight times every game. She can shoot with power and accuracy,” Williams said.
In another early season test, Saline hosts Canton Tuesday.
“We’re going to learn a lot about our team and have a lot or work on during our team camp in Florida,” Williams said.