By BRIAN EVERSON
Around this time last season, Izzy Paradoski was just an eighth grader, and a bystander to the wreckage of goals her older sister, Taylor, was scoring.
It turns out both may have a knack for finding the back of the net.
The now-freshman Paradoski bagged both goals for Stoney Creek in a 2-0 victory Tuesday evening over Lake Orion in a district quarterfinal match.
“I watched [my sister] all the time at every game [last year],” Izzy said. “She [told me] take it game-by-game, and take those opportunities, because you don’t want to miss them.”
Those opportunities took some time to develop for the defending Division 1 state titlists. The Cougars (13-3-3) looked to build up down the sides and work to free up attackers for crosses into the box, but Lake Orion’s defending proved to be stout in the opening half, and a more well-placed shot or two that led from a counterattack may have even had Stoney trailing.
Just less than two minutes into the second half, though, Stoney took advantage of some quality build-up play and a slow-rolling ground pass from senior midfielder Emily Solek found Paradoski, who slotted it in for the 1-0 lead.
Paradoski notched her brace with 33:21 left in the game by converting off a cross that came in from the right corner of the 18-yard box, doubling up the Cougars’ lead.
The Cougars would have had a third goal with just less than 10 minutes left, but Lake Orion senior goalkeeper Taryn Reed aided her team and came off her line to absorb a hard shot from Nicole Eichberger.
An ability to switch the point of attack effectively through the midfield in the second half by Stoney helped prevent the Dragons from building much momentum to mount a comeback.
“I’m happy for the fact that we won the game, but [the girls] were able to fight through what the other team was taking away and forcing them to do, and that’s what a lot of teams have done this year,” Stoney Creek coach Bryan Mittelstadt said. “In districts, if you want to move on, you’ve got to put the ball in the net.”
“In the second half, I thought we did some nice things. We were knocking the ball around and the girls connected.”
Stoney entered the playoffs ranked 14th in the final coach’s poll of the regular season, comparable to their ranking of 10th last year.
Last year’s path to the state title required the Cougars to take down a trio of top 10 teams — Utica Eisenhower, Utica Ford and Novi — as well as No. 14 Troy Athens. A similar road awaits them in the coming weeks, starting with No. 8 Rochester Adams on Thursday night. Stoney won 4-1 in a meeting between both teams several weeks ago, including a pair of goals from sophomore Meghan Solek.
The winner of that game will take on either Rochester or Eisenhower in the district final on Friday. While Adams received a bye into the district semifinal, each of the aforementioned teams also won Tuesday. Despite a scoreless opening half, the Falcons got on the board through a goal by Mackenzie Smith that was assisted by Lexi Czerwien. An insurance goal came by Cerzien in the closing minutes to ensure passage into the semifinals.
Meanwhile, Eisenhower, this year’s MAC Red winners, defeated Romeo earlier Tuesday night 4-1 thanks to a multi-goal night by sophomore Lauren Debeau. Stoney put the only blemish on Ike’s otherwise undefeated season in 2016 with a 3-0 win in a district final.