It took all year, but Utica Ford girls soccer is finally healthy, and is out to create a new identity.
With a full squad, Ford defied the talent level that its 4-8-1 (2-5-1 MAC Red) record might suggest and controlled all areas of the field to cruise past Utica 3-0 in a district semifinal Thursday via goals from Nicki Fiantaco, Julie Ann Piechocki and Darline Radamaker.
“I think our girls were geared up and ready to go for the tournament," Ford coach Teri Steinwascher said. “We had a really bad record, but they didn’t let that bother or rattle them going into the tournament.”
Ford scored twice in the first half to rattle a Utica team that had beaten Ford 3-1 earlier in the season, when Ford only had the depth to run with two subs.
“For us to go up 2-0, they were a little stunned unexpectedly, but more importantly, I think it was good for our kids because we haven’t had a lead in a long time,” Steinwascher said. “Our system and bodies haven’t been there for a long time; it was good for our girls to come out with some confidence.”
The confidence was forged at midfield, where Piechocki and Radamaker controlled their part of the pitch. In turn, Fiantaco and Jenna Vasquez were getting great looks on the attack.
“Darline Radamaker completely controlled the middle of the field. She shut down every air-ball, they couldn’t get past her,” Steinwascher said. “[Finataco] and Jenna Vasquez were attacking really well… the way they played together, it was very hard to defend them today.”
“Darline and Julie Ann sitting behind them allowed for a lot of opportunities for those two to get to the outside.”
Staunch midfield posture also resulted in an easier game for Ford’s back end, which was able to “shut down their best player (Morgan Aho)” and “keep play at bay.”
Steinwascher said the strategy was “don’t let [Aho] get the ball, don’t let their centerman get control of it.”
“That’s where Darline was so powerful, she just destroyed their attack,” Steinwascher added. “We didn’t have to worry about defending it as much.”
Steinwascher said the best part about Thursday’s victory, beside keeping Ford’s season alive, was witnessing the efficient execution of the team’s game plan.
“A 2-0 lead is the worst lead in soccer. Don’t settle. Win it forty minutes a time,” she said to her team at halftime. “The girls listened. We went in with a game plan, they stuck with a game plan, they said they were going to do it, and then on top of it, they executed it absolutely great.”
Utica finished 9-9-2, 4-6-0 MAC White.
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Ann Arbor Skyline 1, Ann Arbor Pioneer 0
Canton 1, Plymouth 0
Center Line 5, Warren Fitzgerald 4 (SO)
Dearborn Henry Ford Academy 1, Monroe Jefferson 0
Grosse Pointe North 3, St. Clair Shores Lake Shore 0
Grosse Pointe South 7, Dearborn Fordson 0
Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 6, Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest 0
Livonia Stevenson 2, Farmington 0
Macomb Lutheran North 5, Almont 2
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 9, Dearborn Heights Star International 0
Royal Oak Shrine Catholic 7, Sterling Heights Parkway Christian 0
Troy Athens 1, Birmingham Seaholm 0
Walled Lake Central 2, Walled Lake Northern 1 (SO)
Waterford Mott 2, West Bloomfield 1
Birmingham Groves 15, Royal Oak 9: Arik Joe was 3-for-3 with a triple, two RBIs and two runs scored, Nick Ringler was 3-for-3 with a double and three RBIs, Chaise Ford was 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored and Michael Wainer was the winning pitcher for Groves (25-9). Robbie Debastos hit a grand slam for Royal Oak.