SOCCER: Saline Blanks Dearborn Edsel Ford, Advances to Regional Final

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Saline senior Christian Rossi reacts after scoring the game's first goal.

ANN ARBOR - Christian Rossi scored twice and Riley Behrman made several saves as Saline defeated Dearborn Edsel Ford, 2-0, in the regional semifinal at Skyline High School Tuesday. Saline advanced to Thursday's regional championship game against Salem. The game begins at 6 p.m.

Saline is making its second trip to the regional final in three years. In 2020, Saline fell to Mattawan, 1-0, in the regional final. Saline hasn't won a a regional title since Collin Cavanaugh's three-goal game in 2014 against Okemos.

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Today's Hornets were in grades 3 and 4 in that Hornet Triumph. They're thinking more about the loss to Mattawan two years ago.

"For me, it's a chance for revenge. That's where we got knocked out my freshman year. Everybody who was on that team really wants to get past that point and put together one of the greatest seasons ever by Saline," junior Connor Mitzel said. "We're right on the verge of that with this game. If we can get through the adversity, I think we've got a great shot at a state championship."

In Tuesday's regional semifinal win, two Hornets added to their remarkable individual legacies. Senior Christian Rossi added two more goals and goalie Riley Behrman, coming off a game for the history books where he made two saves in the shootout and lined up to shoot and score the game-clinching goal, posted a shutout and made several great saves.

Coach Ryan Williams said the Hornets got a tough fight from a fast and talented Dearborn Edsel Ford soccer team. Saline wasn't at its sharpest - but they lived to play again.

"We did what it took to win. I don't think we played our best and I think you have to credit Edsel Ford for that. They had a good gameplan for us. It was a different style that we've not seen all season. We had a good game plan for it, but it seemed like we were not quite in sync," Williams said. "I'm very happy we stuck together and did what it took. We were definitely the better team in the game. But they played really hard." 

Saline seemed to have the possession advantage in the first half. 12 minutes into the game Rossi broke in alone and fired a shot that was stopped point blank by the Edsel Ford goalie. A few moments later, Luke Allen fired a shot that skidded just wide of the post. Later in the half, it looked like the Hornets might break in on a 2-on-0 after a free-kick - but the play was whistled for offside.

The game was scoreless at halftime.

Early in the second half, Edsel Ford took advantage of a rare Hornet breakdown. Suddenly, a Thunderbird was screaming in from the sideline all alone. He fired a shot that Behrman knocked out of bounds. On the ensuing corner kick, the Thunderbirds headed a ball just over the Saline goal.

About 14 minutes into the contest, Saline struck first.

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The Hornets intercepted a throw-in and Anthony Gentile crossed to Michael Bryant, who fired a shot on goal. The goalie couldn't control it and Rossi got to the loose ball and put it past the keeper.

"I kept telling our guys, shoot the ball. You've got to make their keeper make a play. We felt like we would get second chance opportunities. I love how Michael got active and then Christian seeks it out. He's so good around the goal," Williams said. "That just lifted our team with confidence, especially with how good our defense has been playing."

Moments later, the Thunderbirds nearly tied it up.

A Hornet defender got turned and suddenly one of the Thunderbirds' most dangerous players was screaming toward the net. But Riley Behrman kept his angle and made the save look easy.

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"It was a threatening situation but Riley covered up the goal so well by his angles," Williams said. "I'm really proud of him. He's been playing great."

That save preserved the lead and moments later Rossi struck again, taking a pass in full stride, racing past a defender and then using another defender for a screen as he placed the ball in the lower corner of the goal.

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The Hornets held on to win.

The Hornets have won the SEC Red and the district. Now they're aiming at something few Hornet teams have been able to do.

"People have been doubting us, like, it's just the same old Saline that's going to lose in districts. I think we're ready to change that narrative. You won't find a hungrier team out there than we are," Behrman said. "As we saw with Pioneer, we're going to fight to the last whistle whether we're up 4-0 or down 1-0. You're going to get the A game from us no matter what."

Rossi, who continues to had to his record-breaking scoring tally, said the Hornets just continue to work.

"It's been a work in progress all season. We've had to put in the work every day and we knew our goal was to make it as far as possible and hopefully win a state title. I think we definitely have the potential to do that," Rossi said. "We're working day-in and day-out to make it as far as possible. Now we're in the final eight. We're very close to making the final four. I'm very excited to see what we can do."

For the photo gallery, click here.

Watch the full game below.

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