FIELD HOCKEY: Saline Defeats Bloomfield, Advances to Final 4
ANN ARBOR - Ella Talladay and Caroline Clark scored to lift Saline to a 2-1 victory over Bloomfield Hills in the Michigan High School Field Hockey League quarterfinals.
Saline advanced to the semifinal. The Hornets will face Pioneer at Dearborn High School at 7 p.m., Wednesday. Skyline and Novi play in the other semifinal. The championship game is scheduled for Saturday at Saline High School.
"It was a very physical game. They were an athletic team and we definitely had to work really hard for those goals. We had a lot of opportunities and there was a lot of back and forth, but overall we played a great game," Saline coach Sophia O'Connor said. "It wasn't pretty, but we got the job done.
Saline definitely controlled the play for most of the game - but as O'Connor said, Bloomfield Hills had their moments of pressure.
Saline scored late in the first quarter on the Hornets' second penalty corner of the game. Ella Talladay played it in and the pass went to Payton Maloney, who swept a shot on goal. In the chaos, the ball bounced to Carolina Clark on the right side of the goal and she tipped the ball past the keeper for the goal.
The Hornets seemed to get stronger as the game went on, generating chances and more penalty corners. But Saline couldn't find their second goal until the final moment of the third quarter. Nicole Warren and Maddie Nishioka had just done a great job defending a prolonged Bloomfield Hills attack. Maloney played a long ball that sprung Lauren Miller loose up the field. Miller stickhandled around one girl and then fired a shot on the goalie. The ball went to Talladay, who tapped the ball into the cage to give Saline a 2-0 lead.
"We definitely needed that extra cushion in a close game," Talladay said.
Facing the end of the season, Bloomfield Hills gave a spirited effort in the fourth quarter. At long last, they finally got a shot beyond the hard-working Saline defense, but Megan Clauser was there to make the save. With 9:32 to play, Bloomfield Hills breached the Saline goal. The Hornet lead was cut in half.
The Blackhawks pressed hard for the equalizer. The Hornets defended two more penalty corners - including one with one fewer defender as Maloney was sent out to midfield for a false start. On that corner, Warren quickly got out to the circle and prevented the immediate shot. Nishioka then defended the second attacker. The Hornets were able to get downfield and relieve the pressure.
"We really just played our game and that's just going to ball and hustling," Nishioka said. "We have really great midfielders that hustle back and mark up. The whole team chips in."
Saline and Pioneer faced each other twice in the regular season. On Sept. 14, Pioneer defeated Saline, 2-0, at Pioneer. On Oct. 12, Pioneer defeated Saline, 6-0.
"They have a lot of girls who take a lot of shots. We have to block the shots and be at the top of the circle with man-to-man marking. If we can knock down some of their shooters, we can win the game," O'Connor said.
Getting to the final four is an accomplishment - and the Hornets have done it several times. But Maloney and the Hornets want to advance past the semis this year.
"It feels great. We've been to the semis every year and we hope to get past that," Maloney said. "I think if we play at our level, not at the level we played at today, we'll have a good chance."