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Surging Salem rolls into ‘Elite 8’ after subduing No. 2 Skyline

 Surging Salem rolls into ‘Elite 8’ after subduing No. 2 Skyline

Salem junior defender Cali Schwartzenberger motors up the pitch during the first half of Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Ann Arbor Skyline.

Technically sound, tenacious and incredibly talented, Salem’s girls soccer team is surging at the right time.

Fueled by a rising laser of a goal launched from 30 yards out by the pink right shoe of sophomore Lauren Fowler — and a total-team defensive effort — the Rocks sidelined No. 2-ranked Ann Arbor Skyline, 1-0, Tuesday night at Ypsilanti Lincoln High School.

Now 15-5-5 (according to the Michigan High School Athletic Association website), Salem advanced to the Division 1 Elite 8 against Grosse Pointe South, which dominated Dearborn, 5-1, in Tuesday’s first game at Lincoln.

The Salem-GPS game is tentatively scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. at Lincoln; however, severe weather forecasted for Wednesday may push GPS’s high school graduation ceremony from Wednesday to Thursday, forcing the quarterfinal showdown to be rescheduled for Friday.

SocialHouseNews.com will provide updates once details are released.

Whenever their next game kicks off, you can bet the Rocks will be ready.

To check out video highlights from Tuesday’s game, click here.

‘Keep doing what we’ve been doing’

Salem Head Coach Kyle Karns said that, while the Eagles’ well-deserved state ranking was impressive, every team playing at this point in the season is capable of making a state-title run.

“Since the beginning of the playoffs, we’ve been playing our best soccer,” Karns said. “Playing in the division we do (the KLAA West), we’re obviously battle-tested and the challenging schedule we play is paying off.

“At this point, the players have to ignore where our opponents are ranked and just keep doing what we’ve been doing in terms of playing our style. There are only eight teams left now, so every team is high-quality.”

Salem sophomore Lauren Fowler scored the only goal with just over 30 minutes remaining
Salem sophomore Lauren Fowler scored the only goal with just over 30 minutes remaining

Considering the throughout-the-roster excellence the Rocks displayed Tuesday, it would be hard to pick a most valuable player.

If there was an MVP list, Fowler would be at or near the top.

With just over 30 minutes remaining in the defense-dominated contest, Fowler stepped in front of a Skyline clearing pass 35 yards from the goal.

After a quick pivot and a couple dribbles, she lined a missile that barely cleared the gloves of Skyline’s All-State keeper Sofia Nehro before bruising the back of the net.

Salem junior defender Isabelle Prantera pushes the ball up the pitch Tuesday night
Salem junior defender Isabelle Prantera pushes the ball up the pitch Tuesday night

The goal was reminiscent of Fowler’s game-winning net-finder in the Rocks’ 2-1 district semifinal victory over Canton last week.

‘Shoot it!’

“As soon as I settled the ball, I heard Claire (Hammill) shout, ‘Shoot it!’,” Fowler said, describing her latest game-winning heroics. “So I shot it and it went in.

“I knew it was going in right when I shot it. What a great feeling seeing the ball barely get over her hands.”

Fowler said the Rocks’ late-season cohesion and momentum remind her of another local team’s recent ascension to the spotlight.

Salem hadn’t won a district since 1999, so we’re kind of like the Detroit Lions,” she said, smiling. “We’ve come so far. If we keep playing with this intensity, we have a chance to win the state.”

If not for scintillating efforts from Salem senior keeper Morganne Jones and senior defender Addison Furlow with just over two minutes left in the first half, Skyline would have no doubt cracked its goose egg on the scoreboard.

After controlling the ball just eight yards from the goal, Eagle freshman Maeve Kilbride rifled a hard shot that Jones went horizontal to knock down.

Furlow to the rescue

As the ball rolled dangerously close to the net, the hustling Furlow cleared the ball out of bounds.

Salem junior midfielder Katie Sarkesian unleashes a pass

“When I went for the save, I thought I might hit my head on the post,” Jones recalled, smiling as she reflected on her shutout-saving stop. “Then Addy did an amazing job of clearing the ball off the line.

“My heart was beating pretty fast the final 10 minutes. Our midfield did a great job of shutting down their best offensive players and our defense was amazing, as always.”

In the wake of Fowler’s goal, Skyline ramped up its offensive pressure — but to no avail thanks to the Rocks’ defensive poise.

“When things get kind of stressful  like that, you try to stay organized and see the game out,” Karns said. “Skyline was sending everything they had forward. It was one of those situations when you look at the clock during the last 10 minutes, it doesn’t seem like it’s moving.”

Salem senior Elaine Rama settles a ball in the shadow of the Skyline goal
Salem senior Elaine Rama settles a ball in the shadow of the Skyline goal

While the clock continued to move toward the 0:00 mark, the zero on the Eagles’ side of the scoreboard never changed thanks in large part to the lock-down efforts of Salem’s Hammill, Cali Schwartzenberger, Lauren Driscoll, Katie Sarkesian and Isabelle Prantera, among many others.

“The last 10 minutes were so intense … there are so many emotions going through your mind,” Fowler shared.

“I’m just so thankful we were able to hold on and move on.”

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

The triumphant Rocks walk off the field following their thrilling victory
The triumphant Rocks walk off the field following their thrilling victory
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Ed Wright

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