by BRYAN EVERSON
There are plenty of moving pieces in high school soccer. Aside from just graduating seniors or the occasional transfer, the option to play travel due to positional depth can also make it hard to project the landscape from year to year.
Judging from roughly 70 minutes of play, though, Utica Eisenhower is very much the same quality of team as its 2016 incarnation.
The Eagles, whose only loss last season came in the playoffs to eventual Division 1 champion Stoney Creek, were a force to be reckoned with Friday night, getting the best of Adams in a 3-0 victory.
Lightning on the horizon forced the game to be called to a halt prematurely with 9:51 remaining in the second half, but the storm unofficially arrived earlier with senior Gabriala Jodzis, a first-team all-state forward who proved her pedigree with two goals and an assist against the Highlanders (0-1-1).
Jodzis gathered a pass from fellow senior Jillian Winarski and after several dribbles inwards laced a shot into the upper-right corner past goalkeeper Maggie Rogers to give Eisenhower a 1-0 lead with 10:35 left in the opening half.
Just 20 seconds later, a penalty drawn by Jodzis when she was brought down in the box allowed her to step up and convert a well-placed spot kick tucked just inside the left post to double her personal tally as well as the Eagles’ lead.
Less than five minutes into the second half, freshman Meike Ingles capped off the scoring for Ike, using a sliding volley to convert a follow-up opportunity from inside 10 yards to increase the lead to three.
The high-pressure tactics employed by Eisenhower led Adams to switch to a three-player front for a good portion of the match going forward in an effort to bypass potential turnovers in the midfield, leading to several chances late for the Highlanders, including junior Haley Wentzloff’s run onto a cross from the opposite endline, but her narrow effort to pull one back for Adams went off the post.
“We just wanted to be more aggressive,” Adams coach Aaron Donaghy said.
It’s not exactly addition-by-subtraction, but despite giving up six games in their first two outings, goalkeeper is again a position of strength for the Highlanders. Despite graduating an all-state Dream Team netminder in Olivia Argeros (Michigan State), Rogers, a Western Michigan commit, steps in between the posts to ensure stability at the position this year.
“Yeah, it’s really difficult [to go from Olivia to Maggie],” Donaghy joked.
Friday’s game, as well as a 3-3 draw the night before against Utica that saw the trio of Cammy Smith, Sara Bridenstine and Haley Wentzloff all find the back of the net, provide quality nonOAA opposition to start the year and play with tactics and personnel before league play begins after spring break.
“It’s early in the season, and they’re both out-of-league games,” Donaghy said in regards to the results. “I talked to their coach and he said the same thing, you just take these to figure out who you are. Yesterday we played 3-3, they went up and we tied [three times], so you’re just figuring out who you are, what you’ve got and where you’ve got it. We switched a lot of things around today and he subbed a lot.”
“It’s Ike. They were ranked second last year. They’re phenomenal. Super fast, great on and off the ball. It was a great challenge. I thought we did better in the second half. We had a couple chances and obviously they had a couple as well.”
While Donaghy acknowledged that it’s a work in progress with just two of 18 games in the books, he called the performances “a wake-up call” for some players in terms of the level of competition that his team will face before districts start.
“You’ve got a lot of new girls coming out here, and with that kind of speed and ball movement, welcome to Division 1 and playing the best teams in the state. We’ve got Flint Powers next, and there’s nothing on our schedule that gets easier, so you’ve got to be able to play and prepare for the end of the season.”
Thursday night’s game against Powers will mark the last game for the reigning district champions until play resumes on April 13 with an away trip to Bloomfield Hills.