Rochester Hills — Freshman Faith Webber didn’t shy away from the bright lights of the state playoffs and scored both her team’s goals to push Grand Blanc to the Division 1 finals with a 2-1 semifinals victory over Utica Ford on Wednesday night.
Two minutes into the second half, Salena Speagle booted a loose ball into the top corner of the net from 20 yards out to put Ford (15-2-4) up 1-0.
After that, it was all about Webber.
Midway through the second half, Webber cut in from the left and fired a laser far-side past Ford’s diving keeper Emma Boutorwick to knot the score at 1.
"If you asked me how I scored that goal I couldn't tell you," Webber said. "I just remember getting the ball and taking a touch so it was on my right foot, then hitting it as hard as I could and it ended up going into the back of the net."
Five minutes later she got the crowd on its feet by tucking a header neatly inside the goal, giving Boutorwick no chance and sending her team to the state finals.
The teammate that crossed Faith Webber the ball was her sister, sophomore forward Paige Webber.
"She (Paige) got the ball in the corner and at that moment I knew I was going to hit this ball with some body part. Either my head, my legs or my chest, but I was going to get this ball in the net. It was a perfect ball," Faith said, giving credit to her sister.
The chemistry between the sisters has driven Grand Blanc's offense all year.
"We have so much chemistry on and off the field, and we've been able to put that towards our play and score some goals," Faith said.
When asked how many times this season she's hooked up with her sister for goals Faith wasn't sure, but she knows it's been "quite a few."
Faith is just a freshman, but she's well aware of Grand Blanc's past success in the state playoffs:
"It'll probably hit me later," she said. "It’s surreal. Big goals, big dreams. We went to the state finals two years ago so it's good to get back there."
Grand Blanc will play Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central for the state championship at 4 p.m. Saturday at Williamston High.
The first half was a defensive affair and was scoreless at the half. Ford had a couple more chances and a 2-0 advantage in corner kicks.
"They took it to us in the first half," Grand Blanc coach Greg Kehler said. "They play a nice style. The possessed the ball in the midfield on us."
Sophomore forward Nicole Fiantaco was instrumental in creating opportunities for Ford. She just missed a header attempt and later collided violently with Grand Blanc goalie Madison McKay trying to track down a long ball.
Grand Blanc (22-2-4) got the better of Ford for the last 10 minutes of the first half.
With two minutes remaining before halftime, Grand Blanc forward Jenna Blackburn received a perfect through ball but sent a shot just wide with Boutorwick charging off the goal line to contest the shot. It was one of few chances for Grand Blanc in the first half but the best chance for either team.
Kehler credits a tactical change for Grand Blanc's offense in the second half.
"We held a couple people back and went with some outside midfielders in the second half, more of a 4-2-3-1 formation," Kehler said. "That helped because it got them out of the middle and stretched them out, then we were able to play inside when their outside midfielders had to come out and defend."
Ford has dealt with major injuries and personality conflicts all season, plus the passing of coach Teresa Steinwascher’s father. Over a 20-practice span, Steinwascher was only able to make four. She’s proud her team was able to come together in the latter half of the season and make it to the semifinals.
“They came in as a bunch of individuals and walked away as Ford soccer, and that’s on them and not on me," Steinwascher said. "I wasn’t there a large portion of the time, so I was extremely proud of the way they picked it up. They became self-directed learners and said ‘Let’s make this team our team and not have to rely on someone else to lead us.'"
Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.
Soccer semifinals results
Grand Blanc 2, Utica Ford 1
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 1, Saline 0
Final: 4 p.m Saturday, Williamston High
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 4, Holland Christian 1
Birmingham Marian 2, Linden 0
Final: 4 p.m. Friday, Williamston High
Freeland 3, Hudsonville Unity Christian 2
Flint Powers 2, Macomb Lutheran North 1
Final: 1 p.m. Friday, Williamston High
Kalamazoo Christian 2, Muskegon Catholic Central 0
Lansing Christian 2, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 0
Final: 1 p.m. Saturday, Williamston High