Last year, Saline’s varsity soccer team came to an end in a chippy, emotional and controversial regional semifinal matchup with Salem. Tuesday, Saline exacted some revenge, winning its home opener against the Salem Rocks, 3-0.
Ryan Nichols, Zeke Gray and Anthony Sweier scored for Saline. Quinn Fox posted the shutout in goal.
Saline varsity soccer head coach Williams said there has always been a rivalry between the teams – but it was amplified by their recent tilt in the regional semifinal.
“We were out for revenge a little bit, considering we lost to them last year. They ended our season. They’re always a good team and well coached,” Williams said. “We knew it was going to be a tough matchup, so our mentality was that if we could play the full 80 minutes, we’d have a good chance to win.”
Nichols opened the scoring with about 10 minutes left in the first half.
Salem's defender tried to passed it back to the keeper, but the always aggressive Nichols broke it up and then tapped it into an open net.
“Ryan read it, cut it off and then took a touch around the keeper and had a wide open net,” Williams said. “It was an effort play and good read.”
Early in the second half, sophomore Zeke Gray scored his third goal in four games to put Saline up 2-0. Gray scored on a free kick just outside of the 18.
“He had a rip. It took a deflection off one of their players and went in side of the net,” Williams said.
Gray, who has played a lot of academy soccer, is quickly earning a place on this Hornet varsity squad. Williams described his abilities.
“He’s so skilled on the ball. He has the ability to control the ball and keep it close to his body. But his real gift is vision. He’s able to find players. You’ll see him a lot on the assist sheet. But he can finish, too. If he hits the ball within 25 yards, it’s a good opportunity,” Williams said.
Anthony Sweier closed the scoring. Sweier, of course, was the player ejected last year in the playoff game against Salem. The Saline coaches and Sweier were very unhappy with the call in a game were several flagrant fouls were overlooked.
“He was extremely motivated to play this game. On the goal, he just turned on the jets and passed the kid,” Williams said. “He has size, speed and great finishing ability.”
Sweier had this game circled on the calendar for quite awhile.
“That really motivated me for this game. I’ve been preparing mentally. We’re on our home field. I really wanted to get back at these guys,” Sweier said. “So I’m proud of the boys and I got a goal, too.”
Williams also praised the play of his midfielders, who stymied the Salem attack. Keeper Quinn Fox made several stops in the first half but was mostly untested in the second half as he posted the shutout.
The Michigan Power Rodding 3 Stars
- Ryan Nichols – Saline’s most physical player scored the game’s first goal – which proved to be the game winner.
- Zeke Gray – The lightning fast sophomore continues to impress, scoring his third goal in four games.
- Anthony Sweier – It was poetic justice for Sweier to cap the scoring. Sweier was ejected from the regional semifinal against Salem last year in a call the vexed the coaches, and he had to watch the time tick off the clock from the sidelines. So nothing spelled revenge like Sweier putting the icing on the cake.