By BRIAN EVERSON
There’s plenty of room for error when a team carrying a two-goal lead goes down a player with just over 20 minutes left in the game.
Rather than folding, Rochester Adams showed its resolve, maintaining a shutout and its 2-0 lead for a victory over Rochester to lock up the OAA Red title Monday night at home.
Both teams came to play from the opening kick, and the first half proved to be a display of talent from both sides with some close calls in an open-ended game of play.
“In a cross-town game like this, you’ve got to match intensity,” Adams coach Aaron Donaghy said. “That was the whole game, to win 50-50 balls. In the first 10 minutes, Rochester was possessing the ball really well, but after that, I think it was going back and forth. I felt like we held the ball in their end a lot and kept pressure on their defense, but their defensive line played really well and their goalie is solid, so we had to crack that.”
It took nearly a full half, but the Highlanders (8-2-5) finally secured the initial lead through a handball call that set up Haley Wentzloff’s free kick from just inside 25 yards that was swung over the wall and into the upper-left side of the net with less than a minute left on the board.
“We kept the pressure on, and that mistake of the handball, those are the opportunities you have to take,” Donaghy said.
Just over 10 minutes after the break, Adams managed to find breathing room within its advantage. The home side again earned a set piece, and after Wentzloff’s take on the set piece that came in from the left side was pushed upward by Rochester goalkeeper Kaitlyn Godwin, sophomore Sara Samolinski converted on the rebound from within several yards in front of the net.
The match took an unexpected twist, though, as Adams played the final 20-plus minutes with 10 players when a verbal spat resulted in an instant red card. “She was frustrated with the way the call was going,” Donaghy said. “She thought the physical play was going too far, so she had a choice word with the ref and he made a fair call.”
Still, it was hard to determine at times which team was playing with an advantage. The Falcons (8-6-3) controlled the ball the majority of the time against their 10-player rival after the sending-off, and tested Adams goalkeeper Maggie Rogers with crosses into the box on multiple occasions, but Wentzloff may have had the best chance in the final 15 minutes with a driven ground shot from narrow angle within the left side of the box that Godwin was able to collect.
Rochester coach Dustin Coleman assessed what amounted to a lost opportunity, from being a pass short in the build-up in the first half to not being able to pull back a goal following the red card.
“I wasn’t disappointed with them in how hard they played, but I was unimpressed with the ability to get the ball in the net,” Coleman said. “We should have capitalized on their red card and being a player down. We obviously took control of the game after that happened, but for all the work we did, we came up without a goal scored, and that’s what I’m unimpressed with.”
“Adams did a great job of defending in the last 20 minutes. They did not back down and worked really hard to defend our attack. I still think we have the talent and tactical know-how to put a team under, but we didn’t. We’re to blame, and Adams can say that they held us off well.”
With a 5-1 division record, Adams claims the OAA Red for the first time, in Donahgy’s recollection, in seven or eight years.
“It’s been a long time,” Donaghy said. “Welcome to the OAA Red, [where] everybody can win it.”
“You’ve got to be proud because you did it, but you want to play as long as possible, too. We’ve got either Stoney or Lake Orion [in districts]. We’ve got Stoney and then we could be looking at Ike, so it doesn’t get easier. And let’s be honest, Stoney kicked the snot out of us last week, so we’ve got some work to do if they get past Lake Orion.”
“Whoever comes out of this bracket is going to be feared.”
Adams will take on Birmingham Marian in a non-league showdown before its district opener, while Rochester plays Anchor Bay before facing Oxford in a district opener on Tuesday.