DISTRICT CHAMPS: Rossi Tallies Twice as Saline Defeats Skyline
Sophomore Christian Rossi scored two-second half goals as Saline beat Skyline, 2-0, at Hornet Stadium to win the Hornets' first district championship since 2017.
Saline, 14-1-1, advances to the regional semifinal at Dearborn High School. Saline will play against Dearborn Edsel Ford, 10-3-1, at 5 p.m., Oct. 27.
Saline, the SEC Red champs, and Skyline had split their season series, with Saline losing, 1-0, at Saline on Sept. 24 and then winning, 3-2, on Oct. 3 at Skyline. Through one half, the teams were scoreless. Late in the first half, Skyline had a great chance and put a shot off the crossbar after goalie Ben Sundquist got a piece of it. Saline came right down the field and nearly scored on a through ball to Brayden Stavros at the side of the goal.
The second half was rather uneventful for the first two minutes. But in the final 20 minutes, the Hornets began to tilt the field toward the Skyline goal. With about 10 minutes to play, Brayden Stavros played the ball in on a corner kick. Jaden Pickett got his head on the ball and then it bounced to Rossi, who kicked it past the leaping Skyline goalie for a 1-0 lead.
A little more than three minutes later, the Hornets had another kick. This time, Stavros played it a little shorter. Rossie got a head on it and directed it down. The ball bounced back up and over the goalie for a 2-0 lead with 6:30 to play.
Rossi and Stavros say these goals were no accidents.
"Yesterday at practice we really focused on doing those set pieces and I think that really helped us today to score some," Rossi said.
Stavros said coming through on the corners rewarded the team's hard work in practices.
"This is one of the hardest-working teams I've ever been a part of. We grind through every practice and every game. We just want it more than other teams," Stavros said.
Ben Sundquist wasn't tested often thanks to the Hornets' defensive work, but with a dangerous Skyline team shooting in heavy fog, he had to be sharp to keep the game scoreless before Saline finally broke it open.
"It got a little stressful there when it was 0-0 and we had chances and they had chances. So it was quite stressful and the fog just added to everything and made the game even more special," Sundquist said.
Sundquist has started the playoffs with three straight shutouts.
The victory was particularly sweet for the seniors who've lost in the district championships the last two years.
"It means so much. Last year, almost a year ago today, we lost a game in penalty against Pioneer. To come back and win this game, it means everything," Pickett said.
Dominic Rossi is co-captain of the Hornets.
"I've been part of the team for three years now and the last two years we lost in the district finals. It felt so good to finally feel like we deserved it," Rossi said.
The Hornets, like every other high school sports team competing this fall, have played the season surrounded by the uncertainty of COVID-19. It's just another obstacle the Hornets cleared on their way to a district title and SEC Red championship.
"We didn't know when our season was going to get cut. We were taking it one game at a time. Coming to districts, we mentioned again that we could be out at any time from the virus," Dominic Rossi said. "To get here and win the district title despite all the odds, it's just an extra bonus."
- After the game Christian Rossi's mask was drenched in sweat and blood. On his second goal, the header into the net, he bit his tongue.
- It's the Hornets' first district trophy win since 2017, when Saline defeated Woodhaven and then Bedford to win. The Hornets lost to Plymouth in the regional semifinal.
- It's the first time Saline has won an Ann Arbor-area district since 2016, when the Hornets beat Jackson and then defeated Skyline, 1-0. Saline fell to Salem in the regional semifinal that year.
- Two years ago Saline lost to Skyline, 1-0, in the district championship. Skyline went on to win the state championship. Last year, Saline lost to Pioneer, 3-2, in the district championship.