By BRIAN EVERSON
Eisenhower passed a test of its own resolve to advance in a playoff opener Tuesday evening at Swinehart Field.
The Eagles nearly watched a lead slip away in the second half of their district quarterfinal, but instead pulled away to the tune of a 4-1 victory over Romeo.
Sophomore forward Lauren DeBeau added to her scoring total on the season midway through the opening half to give Eisenhower something to show for a half that the MAC Red winners largely controlled through the run of play.
Ike extended the lead through under underclassmen just under six minutes into the second half courtesy of freshman Meike Ingles, who took a delivery from around the right edge of the 18-yard box and finished at the far post.
Ingles nearly got her second with 22 minutes to go when she began a run from 30 yards out and zig-zagged a path all the way into the box, but a touch that proved to be slightly too heavy allowed the Bulldogs ‘keeper the chance to come off her line and negate the opportunity.
Before Eisenhower was able to put the game away, Romeo nearly clawed its way back even, scoring in stunning fashion with 17:08 to go through Sophia Romine’s shot lifted from 25 yards out that bent left and inside the far post. A pinpoint cross less than two minutes later from the right flank reached Romine, but she couldn’t settle her attempted volley that would have equalized for Romeo.
“If it’s a 2-2 game, they’re going to play over their head, and the next thing you know, you’re in trouble,” Eisenhower coach Mehrdad Nekoogar said. “We had [most of the] possession, but it was one of those games where if you don’t finish, they can always come back, and that’s what happened.”
The Eagles finally began to pull away for good when Ingles served up DeBeau for a one-timer that rang off the crossbar, and DeBeau’s persistence helped her beat several defenders for a skillful header that crossed the line to restore the two-goal advantage with 12:53 to play.
DeBeau danced around the goalkeeper on an opportunity that came just inside the final 10 minutes, but a shot that had sufficient power hooked wide left of the target on what would have given the sophomore forward a hat trick.
Ingles ultimately delivered the fourth goal, doing the yeoman’s work of winning the ball near the left edge of the 18, and teammate Bella Jodzis set up Ingles from inside six yards to clip a chance in at the near post with 3:02 left.
“Those two [Ingles and DeBeau], they always play high-level soccer,” Nekoogar said.
Junior goalkeeper Skitter McConkie got the star in goal for Ike, and benefited from the solid defensive effort of players like senior midfielder Sofia DeMercurio and junior Holly Morris.
Eisenhower, who went undefeated in the regular season in 2016, will know by Friday if a rematch is in store with the team that ended their banner year, Stoney Creek, who ended up going on to win the Division 1 title. District semifinal matches will take place later in the evening following Thursday’s print deadline involving Ike and Rochester, as well as Stoney Creek and Rochester Adams. Stoney will host the district final Friday night between the winner of each of those matchups at 7 p.m.
In other local district quarterfinal action, senior goalkeeper Kaley Brenizer came up with a number of key stops for Utica, but Ford came up on top 3-1 thanks to goals by Cecilia Steinwascher, Julie Ann Piechocki and Darline Radamaker. If the Falcons get past Cousino on Thursday, they’ll take on the winner of district host Troy Athens and Stevenson in a final Friday evening.
At Anchor Bay, Dakota fell in its quarterfinal 2-0 to the host school, but Chippewa Valley, who dominated the MAC Blue this season, is moving on to a district final after scoring four goals in each of its two opening playoff victories over Port Huron Northern and L’anse Creuse. The Big Reds will take on either Anchor Bay or L’anse Creuse North Friday night.