One big play showed up in the box score while another one didn’t. But both plays executed by Skyline senior Blake Sundermann helped lead the Eagles into the second round of the Division 1 soccer districts.
The first play came with just a few strides, a perfect strike and the “finish” Skyline needs to make a long run in the state playoffs. At the 25:45 mark of the first half against visiting Huron on Monday night, Sundermann lined up a shot off a direct kick from 23 yards out. The River Rats set up a four-person wall but it didn’t matter. The Skyline defender struck the ball with his right foot, cleared the wall and curved it over the outstretched arms of Huron keeper Ben Trapp to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
“We have been trying to figure out who we are on our set pieces and this guy steps up yesterday in practice and left us no doubt who was going to be taking the shots and sure enough he steps up and nails it,” said Skyline Coach Chris Morgan. “It didn’t matter who was in goal on that shot.”
The other play occurred about 7 minutes later with the Eagles still leading only 1-0. A Huron forward got free down the right side and headed toward Skyline keeper Russell Noble when Sundermann cut off the River Rat before he could get off a shot with a perfectly-executed slide tackle.
Two plays. Opposite ends of the field. Game changers.
Back over to Morgan.
“He’s just tenacious,” he said. “You knock him down, he gets right back up. You can’t hold him down. I’ve seen four years of his tenacity and it’s amazing. He brings that fire to the team that is contagious.”
Sundermann isn’t a fan of history when it comes to soccer. He’s not looking back at previous Skyline teams that didn’t make it out of Districts or why they didn’t put together long playoff runs. He’s looking at the present and the future and the future is where the Eagles appear to be headed.
“This is a different team and it’s a different year,” he said. “We are focused on our next game.”
In other words, the past is in the past.
“This team is amazing,” Sundermann continues. “We do a lot of team bonding. It’s just a great team ready to make a run.”
That “run” started on Monday. The Eagles came into Districts as the No. 1 ranked team in the state and opened the postseason with a convincing and impressive 4-0 win over visiting Huron – a team they tied 2-2 two weeks earlier.
The Eagles face Brighton at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at Howell-Parker Middle School, the host site. The Bulldogs won their opener on Monday 4-1 over South Lyon.
Unbeaten and No. 1 in the state is fine with Sundermann and the Eagles.
“Very happy with how the season went and that we are No. 1 ranked,” he said. “Now we have to end No. 1.”
He was very pleased with the way the Eagles took off on Monday.
“Just great team effort,” he said. “From the goalies all the way to the forwards to finishing. We put it together tonight.”
Sundermann said he first started playing soccer as soon as he could walk. And kicking him a soccer ball was his dad, John, who played soccer at the University of Michigan.
“I wanted to follow my dad,” he said when asked about what first kicked his interest in the great game of soccer. “He’s taught me quite a bit about soccer. He’s a great coach.”
Sundermann was big into the club soccer scene, first playing with the Michigan Wolves before switching over to the Michigan Tigers for his final season.
“Club soccer was great,” he said. “It’s totally different than high school soccer. High school is awesome. I enjoy playing with my friends and representing my school. We want to do the best we can for our school.”
Sundermann is still trying to figure out his next step in his soccer career. But college plans are on hold for the moment as he puts all his attention, focus and tenacity in keeping the Eagles flying toward where they hope to land – No. 1 in the state at the END of the season.