By Matthew Bartow / WLAA
Pioneer made things interesting late, but Huron fended off their crosstown rival to advance in the District playoffs.
Huron defeated Pioneer 2-1 Thursday in a MHSAA D-1 girls’ soccer District opener at Huron High School’s Riverbank Stadium. Huron advances to the District semifinal against Saline at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28 at Lincoln High School. Skyline won its first-round game Thursday 7-0 over Ypsilanti and will play Belleville in the other semifinal game (4 p.m. at Lincoln). The finals are at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 30 at Lincoln.
“Our key to winning the game was game management,” said Huron head coach Lee Hudson. “I thought all of our players executed the game plan very well. It is difficult to beat a team [Pioneer] three times.”
The River Rats controlled the possession in the early moments of the game. Huron midfielder Siena Smith in particular was dominant on the pitch, creating several scoring opportunities, but was unable to beat Pioneer goaltender Renee Starosta, who made several quality saves to keep the contest scoreless.
Despite Huron’s dominance, the Pioneers almost opened the scoring off a corner kick with about 11 minutes remaining in the half, but the bid by Pioneer’s Rebecca Brewer sailed over the net.
Smith’s dominant play finally led to a goal for the River Rats. With 8:59 remaining in the first half, Smith out battled a Pioneer defender for the ball in front of Huron’s net and roofed a shot over Starosta to give the River Rats a 1-0 lead. Huron captain Minna Tremonti assisted on the goal.
Hudson said that scoring early in the game was huge for Huron. “Getting the lead early in the game was a big part of our game plan,” Hudson said.
After Smith’s goal, both teams had a few chances, but the game remained 1-0 Huron at halftime.
Huron increased their lead early in the second half. A dangerous rush by the River Rats about 3 minutes into the second half earned them a corner, and they capitalized. Huron forward Antiya Sidibe emerged out of a scramble with the ball, and she fired a shot into the corner of an open net to give the River Rats a 2-0 lead with 36:42 remaining in the game.
The Pioneers came out a different team after Huron’s second goal, one that did not want to suffer its third loss on the season to the River Rats. After being denied a few minutes earlier by Huron goaltender Dana Decan, Pioneer’s Carlen Baker scored following a steal by teammate Yuyuko Motoki to cut Huron’s lead in half with 21:43 remaining in the contest.
Starosta made a key save to keep the Pioneers’ hopes alive. With about 14 minutes remaining in the game, Sidibe spun around a Pioneer defender and got off a dangerous shot on net, but Starosta knocked the shot over the net, preventing Huron from retaking a two-goal lead.
Pioneer head coach Chris Coleman told his team at halftime that if they were trailing late in the game, they were going to start pressing for goals. “If we need a goal with 15 or 20 minutes remaining in the game, we’re going to start having to take chances, forcing the issue,” Coleman said.
As Coleman instructed his team, Pioneer began dominating the play in the final 10 minutes in search of the tying goal.
Hudson said that his team changed personnel in response to Pioneer’s surge. “With about 8 minutes left, we went from four to five defenders, removing one forward,” Hudson said.
The Pioneers’ best chance to tie the game came with about 3 minutes left, but an offside call ended their rush and gave the possession back to Huron.
The River Rats were able to run out the clock from there to hold onto the victory.
Ann Arbor Huron 2, Ann Arbor Pioneer 1
1 2 T
AA Huron 1 1 2
AA Pioneer 0 1 1
8:59 – Huron – Siena Smith (1) assisted by Minna Tremonti (1) – River Rats 1, Pioneers 0
36:42 – Huron – Antiya Sidibe (1) unassisted – River Rats 2, Pioneers 0
21:43 – Pioneer – Carlen Baker (1) assisted by Yuyuko Motoki (1) – River Rats 2, Pioneers 1