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October 9, 2013

Missing out on league final allows Rice to take aim at district crown

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Rice junior Jack Howard (20) tries to shake free of a few defenders during an Oct. 1 game against U of D. The teams played to a 1-1 tie.

BIRMINGHAM — Straightforward and two-fold: that’s the game plan the Birmingham Brother Rice soccer team begins every season with.

Win a Catholic League title.

Win a district title.

The rest is gravy.

On Oct. 1 in a home date with the University of Detroit Jesuit, the Warriors led 1-0 in the game’s final moments, a ticket all but punched for the Oct. 9 Catholic League championship at Notre Dame Prep when disaster struck.

Coach Barry Brodsky called it a “scramble in front of the net.”

The Cubs called it the game-tying goal.

“Hopefully, we take some lessons from this and use it the rest of the season,” Brodsky said after the 1-1 tie with U of D. Rice had to win to earn a spot in the league final.

On the outside looking in at the showdown for the league title for the first time in six years, that’s the objective now.

“We still have some time to get ready for the district,” Brodsky said. “That’s our focus.”

A perennial contender nearly every year, Rice hasn’t reached the regional round of the state playoffs since 2010.

“We’re due,” Brodsky said.

“Being a senior, and seeing how last year’s guys felt when we lost, we know how important this really is,” said Michael Stroud, one of 11 seniors on the roster.

“It was awful to watch it end for those guys (last year),” fellow senior Hunter Mejaly added. “It’s almost like this playoff year is for them.”

Rice was bounced by Berkley High in the 2012 playoff opener, but with the back-and-forth play in the league this season, and how tight every single game has been, the guys feel a bit more prepared this time around to make some noise in what will be another brutal district bracket.

“We talk all season about how the playoffs are usually 1-0 or one-goal games,” Stroud said. “That’s all we’ve known most of the season. I think we like that pressure.”

In league play so far, every game was either a tie or a one-goal win or loss.

“You hope by now, we’re comfortable in those uncomfortable situations,” Brodsky said.

Rice opens the 2013 postseason against Lathrup Village Southfield-Lathrup at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Berkley.

The winner takes on either Bloomfield Hills High or Beverly Hills Groves, two of the top teams in Division 1, in the semifinal.

The other half of the bracket includes Berkley, Royal Oak High, UD-Jesuit and Birmingham Seaholm.

“Consistency is the big thing we need to find in the final weeks here,” Brodsky added. Rice was 4-4-5 at press time. “The district is always so competitive and is going to be again this year. If we can find that middle ground in the way we’ve played, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”