by BRYAN EVERSON
The fans present for Tuesday night’s non-league tilt between Adams and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep had plenty to enjoy with a barrage of early goals.
For the team’s coaches, perhaps not so much.
The Highlanders, though, prevailed in the five-goal affair, pulling out a 3-2 victory at home that saw each team riding waves of momentum to the conclusion.
“It was a forward and back game,” Adams coach Aaron Donaghy said. “Both teams had their moments. There were times when we were all over them, and times when they were all over us, especially at the end.”
“It was a real good game, but on my end, I wish it was a little bit more controlled.”
Just five minutes in, the Fighting Irish took the initial lead courtesy of freshman Itala Gemelli, who let fly from beyond 25 yards with a shot that dipped under the bar and beyond Adams goalkeeper Maggie Rogers.
Little more than a minute thereafter, though, Adams (4-1-2) struck back courtesy of some quick-developing play through Ava Bronzetti and Sara Samolinski, with the latter searing a shot toward Notre Dame Prep’s goalkeeper, and Bronzetti took the rebound played back into danger and capitalized even the scoreline.
Adams struck again to reclaim the lead, this time as junior Cammy Smith lifted a shot that trailed left and splashed the back of the net with 21:46 to go in the opening half.
“When you get around the 18, you don’t hesitate,” Donaghy said. “There’s times in earlier games when our girls would get [there] and look for a drop pass. You get to the 18 [yard box] and you go in. As soon as it came to her, she cannoned it in. It was brilliant.”
Not more than two minutes later, the Highlanders made their lead 3-1 when a sequence from the counterattack allowed Hailey Wentzloff to send a bouncing cross that in that skirted past one Adams attacker and landed with freshman Justice Tillotson, who found the right corner of the net from inside the center of the 18.
That’s when the Highlanders nearly fell prey to the sport’s old cliché about a two-goal lead being the worst.
“Those three goals came pretty easy for the girls, so I think they thought that was what it was going to keep on being and they weren’t going to adjust, but I told them they were going to,” Donaghy said. “At this level, you can’t decide that, ‘Well, we’re up a goal, we’ll gear it down a bit.’ That’s Notre Dame Prep, they’re no joke. It’s frustrating.”
Sophomore Maura Kruse sliced the deficit in half by getting the tip of her foot to a shot taken just inside the penalty area that dipped perfectly over the reach of Rogers.
The Highlanders did escape several close calls before the break, though, and Rogers factored largely into maintaining the advantage on several chances. The senior goalkeeper came off her line to prevent Stephanie Maniaci from winning a footrace with Adams defenders and booted it out of harm’s way at the fringes of the box with 15 minutes left in the first, and also made easy work of a free kick from Payton Williams curled towards the left corner from 30 yards out.
Each team came dangerously close to the game’s sixth goal, including a cut by Gemelli that bent and hit the crossbar from 20 yards out four minutes before halftime.
A wide-open second half eventually saw the Fighting Irish (6-3-1) go into full-on attack mode in the game’s final 15 minutes, pushing their center backs all the way to midfield and parking Adams on its own side.
“We needed to move the ball quick and find our wides quicker,” Donaghy said. “In soccer, especially against the good teams, they’re going to adjust quick, so when you take the extra few touches across the field, they’re going to adjust to that outside then, and we couldn’t give them that time. When you hesitate, even just a little bit, a good team is going to step that ball [and dispossess you].”
Donahgy was pleased that his team was able to withstand the late barrage from Notre Dame Prep, who raised the state trophy in Division 2 last season.
“It was [a long time to defend], and they were throwing everything forward,” he said. “There was no question they wanted to score, and the girls, I think, were a little overwhelmed by it. We had some younger players out there who I think were a bit shell-shocked, so they were getting a little flat, but they held it, and in the last five minutes they actually settled down and were getting some counter situations out of it, which was good.”
“In a game that gets that intense in the last 10 minutes, you’ve got to take those punches.”
Adams plays its next two matches on the road, first in league action at Troy on Thursday night, and two days later against Walled Lake Northern at 1 p.m.