VIDEO: Great Moments In Saline Athletics In the 2010s

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 12/31/2019 - 00:59
The Saline varsity boys soccer team embraces Collin Cavanaugh after he scored his third goal late in a 3-2 win over Okemos as Saline won the regional and advanced to the final four.

The 2010s were marked by brilliance on the fields, courts, mats, rinks and everywhere else the Saline Hornets competed.

Here are some of the moments that shaped the way we remembered the decade in Saline High School sports. 

Larry Robinson's 99-Yard Rushing TD

On Oct. 11, 2019, Saline sophomore QB Larry Robinson etched his name in the record book with a 99-yard rushing touchdown against Skyline.

"Coach was just trying to get us out of the end zone and give us some room to make some plays. It was great blocking by the O-Line. The running backs behind me gave me a good push and I was off to the races from there,” Robinson said.

Robinson had thrown a rare interception on the previous series. Saline's defense came up with a stop, the but the Hornets had bad field position.

“Throwing that interception hit me hard so I wanted to get back out there and make a play for our team. I was the one who put us in that position. I tried my best to something good for the team and it ended up being a great break,” Robinson said.

We'll look for more from Robinson in the 2020s.

Collin Cavanaugh's Hat Trick

In 2014, Saline's soccer team advanced to the regional final on a steady diet of goals from Jake Cohen and Matt Fitz. But in the regional championship game against top-ranked Okemos, a new hero stepped to the fore. Collin Cavanaugh, who'd scored two goals all year, scored three goals in a 3-2 victory. His final goal was a thing of beauty, with just 2:33 remaining in regulation.

“Three goals in a regional final game? Are you kidding me? I mean, that kid came to play,” said Saline head coach Dana Rosselot.

Bacarella's Final Leg Saves a Regional Championship

Cam Bacarella wasn't even supposed to run track in 2019 after blowing out his knee during soccer season in the fall of 2018. But after surgery and rehab, Bacarella had not only returned, he played the deciding role in Saline's regional championship. Saline and Pioneer entered the final event, the 4-by-400 relay, with Saline needing to beat Pioneer to win the trophy. Bacarella ran the final leg for Saline and had a slight lead rounding the final curve. The Pioneer runner made his move and appeared to catch Bacarella with 20-25 yards to go, but Bacarella found another gear, and beat the Pioneer runner by a lean.

“I was definitely getting ready to fall over, but I just knew I was almost there and I really wanted to get it for my team. I saw the line and knew I had it, so I kept pushing,” Bacarella said.

Zylstra's Buzzer-Beating 3

2013 was a special season for the Saline girls basketball team. It was the last time the Hornets won a district championship. But the Hornet magic started the week before the post-season. On Feb. 23, just two weeks after the Hornets lost a heart-breaker to Skyline on a buzzer-beater, Saline celebrated a buzzer-beater of their own. Tied at 48 as the seconds ticked off the clock, Emily Reyst drove the ball up the right wing, turned back and found sophomore Amanda Zylstra at the top of the key. Zylstra caught the pass and fired the shot a half second before the Ypsilanti defender could block her. The shot swished through the mesh as the buzzer sounded and the Hornets mobbed her at center-court.

“It’s unbelievable. I’m on cloud nine. I couldn’t be happier,” said Zylstra. “I think we redeemed ourselves tonight (after losing to Skyline). And I think we pushed our confidence level up for districts next week.”

Ryan Foley's Catch in the State Championship Game

In 2016, the year before the Hornets finally won their baseball title, they were very close. In the state championship game against Warren DeLaSalle, Saline was down, 4-1, early in the game. With the bases loaded and two out, a DeLaSalle batter sharply hit the ball toward the gap in left-center. From the moment it left the bat, it looked like it might clear the bases. But the speedy, hard-charging left-fielder, Ryan Foley, was having none of that. He sprinted toward center and back toward the wall and then leaped to make an incredible catch that was later featured on ESPN. The catch kept the Hornets in the game - and they eventually did take the lead. But, ultimately, they would have to wait until 2017 to win.

Goal Line Stand Wins Regional Championship

It was a joyous moment of triumph after an epic and grueling defensive struggle. A Saline football team that wasn't supposed to be much good in 2018 proved everyone wrong by advancing to the regional final against Rockford. The Hornets built a 6-0 lead on two field goals and then gave up a late touchdown. Noah Nelson blocked the extra-point attempt to preserve the 6-6 tie and send the game to overtime. In overtime, MJ Griffin rushed for a touchdown. Brendan Cropsey made the extra point kick. Saline led 13-6. Rockford scored a touchdown in overtime. And then, instead of trying to tie with an extra point, they tried to win it with a two-point conversion on the ground. Jonah Ashby absorbed the first blocker and bounced back to make the first contact, and then Alex Morrison and Isaac Zambeck arrived to help bring the runner down. The goal-line stand was successful. The Hornets advanced to the final four.

“It's just an unbelievable feeling. I don't think I've ever been part of a win like that,” Coach Joe Palka said. “To win it on stopping them from the one and half-yard line. It doesn't get any more dramatic than that. For a regional championship. We've had some big wins and big times, but to win a big game, in dramatic fashion with such high stakes, it's incredible.”

Laura Vaccaro's Home Run

In 2014, Laura Vaccaro was an all-league pitcher and slugger for the Saline softball team. Vaccaro managed her stand-out season despite coping with the illness of her father, Tom, who, despite cancer, found a way to watch many of his daughter's games. The Hornets constructed a small structure along the fence for Tom to watch while being protected from the elements. On May 18, Tom passed away. The very next day, in her first at bat, Laura smashed a pitch over the left-centerfield fence. Vaccaro was also the winning pitcher in the 13-3 win.

Gage Hammond's Punt Return

Back in 2012, district championships were a rarity for Saline football. They hadn't won a trophy since 2006. On Nov. 2, Gage Hammond helped Saline defeat Pioneer and take the trophy. The Hornets were up 24-3 in the fourth quarter and were preparing to punt the ball away from their 39. But the snap went over Hammond's head. Hammond finally tracked the ball down around his 18, curled toward the Pioneer sideline, swerved to the middle and made everyone miss, shaking off the last would-be tackler around 35-yards out. The play was featured on websites all around the world. The Youtube video has more than 80,000 views.

Final Out for the Saline Championship Baseball Team

For a team that does as much winning as Saline baseball, you don't see many genuinely joyous celebrations. High expectations can do that. There've been Saline baseball teams that clinched SEC titles or district championships with little more than a few high fives and the mandatory team picture.  When you aim for a state championship, SEC titles and district championships - things that might thrill other teams - seem par for the course. But for all Saline's winning and expectation, that state championship was frustratingly elusive. Coach Scott Theisen's Hornets were 0-for-5 in championship games. That all changed around 10:40 a.m., June 17, 2017. Saline entered the bottom of the seventh inning leading Northville, 5-2 - three outs from their first championship game. Northville managed to put two runners on and bring the tying run to the plate. Tyler Zmich got the Northville batter to ground out to Kellen Huang who flipped to Jake Finkbeiner at second for the final out. A celebration years in the making ensued, as the Hornets piled on each other in a happy rumpus near the pitcher's mound.  Many tears, hoots and hollers were shared before the team gave coach Theisen the Gatorade shower.

Saline Wins Soccer District in Shootout

If you've ever watched a soccer shootout, it's hard not to feel some pity for the goalie. Unless that goalie was Annika Udrys - who backstopped Saline to d a district championship in 2018. On June 2, the Hornets played Skyline for the district championship. Udrys and the tough Saline defense held the Eagles scoreless in regulation and overtime. The game advanced to a shootout, where Udrys stopped 3 of 5 Skyline shooters in spectacular fashion. Sarah Brannan scored for the Hornets to clinch the victory.

Coach Rosselot ran out of words to describe the play of her senior goalie. In a lifetime of soccer, only once has she seen a goalie stop three shots in a shootout.

“It’s incredibly rare. The Skyline girls made their shots. She just stopped them,” Rosselot said.  Saline advanced to the regional final before falling to Novi, the eventual state champion.

Fab Four Set State & National Relay Record

The Fab Four - David Boland, Adam Whitener, Josh Ehrman and Michael Bundas - set the MHSAA and national record in the 200 medley relay, swimming the race in 1:30.01. The all-division MHSAA record stands to this day in a sport where records fall every year. The Fab Four, perhaps the greatest collection of senior talent in MHSAA swimming history, went on to win the swim and dive championship - Saline's fourth straight.

Steven Slattery's Pick 6 Helps Saline Football to Championship Game

Steven Slattery's 80-yard interception return against Cass Tech on Nov. 22, 2014, was perhaps the greatest moment of the greatest season in Saline football history.  Saline led 17-7 with 9:46 to play. Cass Tech had pressed their way to the Saline 19, but faced a 4th-and-7. Rodney Hall went to Cass Tech's star, future Ohio State RB Mike Weber, with a short pass. But Steven Slattery sniffed it out. He leaped into the air to make the catch and then ran 80+ yards for the touchdown - virtually sealing the game for the Hornets and punching their ticket to Ford Field. 

Saline Field Hockey's Walk-Off State Championship

You want drama? You want high-stakes?

How about a state championship that comes down to a shootout after regulation and overtime failed to solve anything. Shannon Reilly had scored in regulation for the Saline field hockey team. The teams went into overtime tied at one with Detroit Country Day. In the shootout, Devin Reilly went first and scored. Saline goalie Kennedy Boyer stopped the first Yellowjacket with an aggressive poke-check. Shannon Reilly just missed with a shot on Saline's second try. Country Day's second shooter missed the net. Saline went up 2-0 in the shootout when Sophia Tzavaras made a move and tapped the ball past the goalie's foot.  Boyer made another stop. Grace Livesey missed a chance to clinch it for Saline. But it didn't matter, because Boyer shut down Erin VanCleave. She came storming out of her net for a poke-check. VanCleave recovered and went to her right. Boyer picked herself up and dove across, using her stick to swat the ball away. 

The Hornets celebrated as state champions.

 

Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of TheSalinePost.com. He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 734-272-6294.

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