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FANTASTIC 4! Salem rolls into D1 semis after blanking Blue Devils

 FANTASTIC 4! Salem rolls into D1 semis after blanking Blue Devils

Salem soccer players celebrate a goal during Friday’s 3-0 victory over Grosse Pointe South. PHOTO BY CHAD SCHWARTZENBERGER

Playing on a gray field, under gray clouds, Salem’s girls soccer team supplied a dazzling splash of color to Friday’s MHSAA Division 1 regional final against Grosse Pointe South.

Displaying their relentless lockdown defense, the Rocks’ first-half attack was locked in as they netted three technicolor goals in a span of 19 minutes on the way to a 3-0 triumph over the Blue Devils.

Salem advances to Tuesday’s D1 semifinals against Rochester Adams at Troy High School. The opening kick-off is set for 7 p.m.

Adams dispatched No. 1-ranked Troy, 1-0, in overtime in its regional final on Thursday.

To check out video highlights from Friday’s match, click here.

Morganne Jones secures a save with the help of teammate Ainsley Mayer
Morganne Jones secures a save with the help of teammate Ainsley Mayer PHOTO BY CHAD SCHWARTZENBERGER

Hartland and Grand Haven will meet in Tuesday’s other semifinal match, meaning two teams (Hartland and Salem) from the incredibly deep KLAA West Division are among the final four teams still standing in the tournament.

The Salem-GPS match was pushed back from Thursday to Friday after severe storms that hit southeast Michigan on Wednesday forced the GPS senior graduation to be moved to Thursday, the original date for the regional final.

Red-hot stretch

Ever since a three-game stretch from May 8-14 when they went 0-2-1, the Rocks have been on fire, outscoring five top-shelf opponents, 11-2.

Anchored by senior goal-keeper Morganne Jones, Salem hasn’t given up a goal in its last 307 minutes of action — an eye-popping stat considering the level of competition it has been matched up against.

“Morganne has been killing it,” said Salem junior defender Cali Schwartzenberger, whose end-line to end-line hustle has helped spearhead the Rocks’ run.

“And our defensive line has really been connecting and communicating well recently. We just have to keep it up.”

GPS mounted the game’s first scoring threat when Lauren McDonald created a semi-breakaway 30 yards from the goal in the opening 10 minutes.

However, Salem senior defender Addison Furlow expertly diffused McDonald’s run when she caught up to the sprinting Blue Devil and — from McDonald’s left side — left-footed the ball out of her possession.

Breaking the ice

Salem scored the only goal it ultimately needed with 25 minutes and 29 seconds remaining the first half Friday when Rutgers University commit Claire Hammill broke free with the ball behind the Blue Devils’ defense creating a nightmare one-on-one scenario for GPS keeper Elsa Bachert.

From 12 yards out, Hammill, who is equally dangerous kicking with both feet, decided to strike a ground-hugging shot toward the right side of the goal, which Bachert dove toward but couldn’t touch, giving Salem a 1-0 advantage.

Exactly four minutes later senior Elaine Rama drilled a shot off the left post that deflected into the net, extending the Rocks’ lead to 2-0.

Katie Sarkesian pushes the ball up the field PHOTO BY CHAD SCHWARTZENBERGER
Katie Sarkesian pushes the ball up the field PHOTO BY CHAD SCHWARTZENBERGER

Freshman Kendall Jaskolski capped the scoring explosion when she intercepted a clearing kick from Bachert, calmly settled the ball and sent a right-footed bender into the left side of the net.

The Blue Devils manufactured a couple decent second-half scoring chances — Isabella Deyeroux misfired on a one-on-one opportunity from the doorstep during the first 10 minutes of the closing stanza; and Jones elevated high to knock away a threatening shot off a corner kick a few minutes later to preserve her third-straight clean sheet.

Salem came within inches of extending its lead to 4-0 when Hammill’s high, soft touch from 15 yards out hit the cross-bar and bounded back.

“Like I’ve said before, we’ve been playing our best soccer since the playoffs started,” said Salem Head Coach Kyle Karns. “If we continue to play our best soccer, we have a shot against any team.”

Youth movement

The Rocks’ have been bolstered by strong play from high-energy freshmen Alik Yeremian and Jaskolski, who appear unfazed by the pressurized playoff environment — as well as sophomore Aubrey Krischano whose slick dribbling has given foes fits.

The Rocks rejoice after freshman Kendall Jaskolski scored a goal PHOTO BY CHAD SCHWARTZENBERGER
The Rocks rejoice after freshman Kendall Jaskolski scored a goal PHOTO BY CHAD SCHWARTZENBERGER

“I think we’ve done a great job of integrating a lot of our youth into the games,” Karns said. “We have freshmen and sophomores who have played significant minutes throughout the season.

“From top to bottom, though — from our freshmen through our seniors — everyone has played well, for sure.”

With a comfortable lead, Karns took advantage of inserting several subs into the game, including junior Amelia Smith whose highlights included a crowd-pleasing, nearly-length-of-the-pitch run down the right flank.

But it was the veteran mainstays — Hammill, Rama, Jones, Katie Sarkesian, Lauren Fowler, Isabelle Prantera, Furlow, Lauren Driscoll and Schwartzenberger — who led the rolling Rocks.

Unsung heroes

While players like Schwartzenberger may not light up the scoreboard, their all-out effort indirectly leads to goals for the Rocks and frustration for the Rocks’ opponents.

“My role is to run from box to box and help us press forward and attack,” she said. “I’m known for helping our forwards get the ball upfield, but I also have the responsibility of getting back and helping defend so our opponents don’t score.”

Kyle Karns presents the regional trophy to his team
Kyle Karns presents the regional trophy to his team

When asked to summarize the Rocks’ magical season, Schwartzenberger was eloquent.

“It’s been pretty special because we’ve worked so hard for this,” she said. “We had a couple of struggles around the middle of the season, but we’re playing our best right now. I’m happy for Salem girls soccer because it’s been a long time since its made it to the semifinals.”

Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or edwright@socialhousenews.com.

Cali Schwartzenberger prepares to unleash a shot PHOTO BY CHAD SCHWARTZENBERGER
Cali Schwartzenberger prepares to unleash a shot PHOTO BY CHAD SCHWARTZENBERGER

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Ed Wright

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