Shootout goals lift Ford II girls soccer to first state semifinal since 1988
Published June 6, 2014
STERLING HEIGHTS — Utica Ford II junior goalkeeper Nikki Topping dove left, right and stopped a shot that was right in her face while her team was locked in a shootout with Grosse Pointe South in a Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 regional final.
Those won't be the last shots Topping faces this season, as three of her teammates scored in the shootout to give Ford II a 1-0 win over the Blue Devils in the regional final. The Falcons (15-4-1) advance to take on Utica Eisenhower (17-1-2) in a state semifinal at 6:30 p.m. June 11 at West Bloomfield.
Eisenhower and Ford II finished first and second, respectively, in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division. The Eagles swept the Falcons in the regular season, recording two 1-0 wins. The winner of the state semi will match up with either Okemos or Northville in the D-1 state title game at noon June 14 at Williamston.
The regional title is the first for Ford II since 1988.
"I was just looking at them and at their eyes and their hips," Topping said. "I was just watching them to make sure they weren't tricking me, and I got lucky."
Falcons junior midfielder Bella Sortzi scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal. Sortzi was the fourth Ford II player to take a shot in the shootout. All three South players failed to score.
"It started back in the second week of school where we were getting up at 5 a.m. and putting in a lot of hard work and doing a lot of extra things," Falcons coach Teri Steinwascher said. "That's all paying off now. Their hearts are tremendous and the leadership is awesome, and it's nice to have Nikki Topping on my side."
Blue Devils coach Gene Harkins said he thought his team played well in the second half after what he called a flat first half. Harkins, looking to guide South (12-6-5) to its first regional title since 2011, said Ford II played well all game long.
"Everybody knows when you get (to a shootout), that's anybody's game," Harkins said. "Congratulations to them."
Ford and South split their two regular-season meetings this season, each was decided by one goal.
The Falcons have outscored five playoff opponents 16-1. Eisenhower has outscored its five postseason opponents 19-4.
To advance to the regional final, Ford II knocked off Troy Athens 1-0, while South bested Dakota 1-0 in a shootout. Both games took place June 6.
For more playoff coverage, check www.candgnews.com.