Eisenhower coach Mehrdad Nekoogar has had plenty of opportunities — 18 to be exact — to talk about opponents after a win this season.
Typically he’ll stray from talking about the other team’s quality, instead focusing on his own team’s performance. But in the case of the 18th win, he openly acknowledged the other side, and for good reason.
The Eagles got retribution for last year’s 3-0 playoff loss to Stoney Creek, this time scoring a 1-0 victory last Friday night to claim the district championship.
“The girls went undefeated last year, and we came in and were flat [in last year’s district final]. Granted, Stoney played very well that day, but we didn’t play very well either. I know it was something in their mind and they were thinking about it the whole time.”
“Maybe that was a motivation for them, to come back and show that we weren’t as bad as last year when we lost 3-0. Today, they played very good soccer.”
The game’s decisive moment came with 24:48 to go in the second half when Eisenhower senior midfielder Bella Jodzis supplied a cross to sophomore forward Lauren DeBeau, who flicked a header from 12 yards inside the far post.
Indeed, DeBeau confirmed playing the Cougars (14-4-3) meant a little something extra.
“It’s so nice to come in with a little bit of a chip on the shoulder, have a little grudge against them and get some revenge,” DeBeau said.
“It’s awesome, but I wouldn’t have even gotten a chance for the goal if not for Bella. This was a team win by far, and I’m really grateful to play on this team. We wanted to make sure this senior class — we have 10 seniors — I want to go as far as possible for them since it might be the last time they play.”
Eisenhower coach Mehrdad Nekoogar had praise of Stoney’s quality, saying he didn’t believe the one goal was enough to expect victory.
“Not against Stoney, no,” Nekoogar said. “When you play a team of their caliber, of course not, but we knew we had to slow down the game and play a bit more defensively. It was a heckuva game.”
Though there wasn’t an overflow of scoring opportunities, several high percentage chances arose for each team. Both sides had clearances at point-blank range in the early portion of the first half, and the Cougars (14-4- 3) came painstakingly close to tying the match in the final 10 seconds with a shot from within 15 yards that was pulled wide of the near post.
Stoney shuffled formations to try and find an answer to stymie Ike’s advances, but the Eagles did enough to win the midfield game after the break and minimize opportunities from the home team, using the speed of freshman forward Meike Ingles as a target while players like DeBeau and Jodzis also took their chances.
“I was very happy,” Nekoogar said. “We had a plan when we came in to play this game, and I think the girls executed the plan 100 percent.”
Nekoogar believes having gotten a few losses out of their system in the regular season may have ultimately helped take a step forward in this year’s playoffs.
“We still won our division, so losing a couple of games actually helped us,” he said. “We understood that we’re not at our best every game. And it paid off.”
Eisenhower did fall to defeat on Tuesday night, its season ending 1-0 in a loss to Walled Lake Northern in a regional semifinal. Ike was missing nearly a handful of starters for the match in Grand Blanc, held the same evening as the school’s prom.