by BRYAN EVERSON
Unusual circumstances and the right amount of tactical chess allowed Troy to subdue the high-octane offense of Eisenhower temporarily.
It’s an accomplishment considering how other teams have fared as of late.
The Colts allowed just two goals before halftime last Friday, but Ike eventually found its groove and rolled comfortably in a 5-0 victory at Swinehart Field.
A 2-1 defeat to L’anse Creuse North on March 27 that spoiled hopes of repeating last year’s undefeated regular season now seems distant, as Eisenhower entered the game with Troy on a four-game winning streak, including, most recently, 6-1 and 8-1 victories over Dakota and Grosse Pointe North, respectively.
Friday’s game originally looked as if it may be just a scrimmage when some confusion led to an absence of officials present. They eventually arrived, prompting some lineup changes from each side, some planned, some not.
“It was just a mix-up, but [the officials] showed up,” Eisenhower coach Mehrdad Nekoogar said. “I talked to some of the girls earlier and said that I wanted to give some playing time to some of the [other] players, and this is a non-league game.”
Troy came out as formidable as any opponent has looked against Ike as of late, but not unexpectedly, the Eagles’ regulars made an instant impact when they were introduced. Senior midfielder Jillian Winarski opened up her shape and curled a shot inside the far post from 15 yards out with 22:50 on the clock, just seconds after she was substituted into the game.
“[Jillian’s] been playing pretty good,” Nekoogar said. “For us, it took a little bit longer to get ready. We still have a long way to go. Even today, we were missing three starters that are injured right now.”
Proper spacing and plenty of numbers in the midfield — Troy deputized five midfielders that crowded the center — managed to limit the effectiveness for a majority of the opening 40 minutes.
“Every coach has a different style; they were playing a 4-5-1 to plug up the middle and it did a good job,” Nekoogar said of the Colts’ formation.
Ike eventually got a second goal before half in spectacular fashion. Senior Bella Jodzis began a remarkable run the started from 30 yards out and worked centrally from the right side before finding a space between the left and center back, then twisted a shot back to the opposite side that rolled perfectly inside the left post and out of the reach of Troy goalkeeper Lindsey Bolas.
“These girls are very high-skilled players,” Nekoogar said. “Bella, Jillian, they are high-skilled players and they play high-skilled games all the time, so they know what’s expected of them.”
On the other side of the break, the Eagles began to increase the margin of victory 17 minutes in when Lauren DeBeau collected a long ball over the top and got her boot onto an in-stride volley from inside 10 yards that beat Bolas to put her team up by 3.
DeBeau quickly netted her second goal of the evening when Jodzis whipped a ground cross into the box from the left corner and DeBeau, who took advantage of the inability of the Colts’ defenders to provide relief with a clearance, found the net from inside 15 yards with 19:33 to play.
Taylor Stanley was able to cap off the scoring with 4:55 remaining, taking advantage a defensive lapse by Troy and finishing from just inside the edge of the 18-yard box.
Nekoogar said he felt better about the performance in the second half, but indicated that the game’s abnormal circumstances in the onset caused for a slower-than-usual start.
“At the beginning, when you don’t have the normal players you play all [on the field] at the same time, then you bring them in and take some players out, you lose the momentum a little bit,” he said.
And despite the lopsided win, the bar still remains higher for what Nekoogar believes his team can do over 80 minutes.
“I still think we can do better than this, that we have more potential,” he said. “We still have a long way to go to where I want them to be. I still think there are times that we break down and we need to fix it, but our goal is to get ready for districts.”
Ike followed up with another 5-0 win on Monday night, getting goals from Debeau and Winarski, as well as Jenna Pettke, Sabrina Raveane and Sarah Faloon in a defeat of Grosse Pointe South.
In other neighboring action on Monday, Utica lost 5-3 to L’anse Creuse North, while Dakota fell 1-0 to Fraser. Chippewa Valley (7-1-1) scored a 2-1 victory over L’anse Creuse, and followed up Tuesday with a 6-1 victory over Port Huron Northern thanks to hat tricks from Maddie Medalle and Kerrigan Johnson.