Late defensive stop helps No. 3 Saline seal shutout win over No. 4 Ann Arbor Skyline
ANN ARBOR – A late defensive stand sparked No. 3 Saline to a 1-0 win over No. 4 and league rival Ann Arbor Skyline Tuesday night on the road in Division 1 boys soccer action out of the Southeastern Conference’s Red Division.
The victory puts first-place Saline in control of its own destiny in the league race with two matches left in the regular season.
“We’re in a good spot: If we take care of our business we take the league title,” Saline coach Ryan Williams said. “We really grinded tonight. We competed and we were composed throughout. Rivalry games come down to key moments. We took advantage of ours.”
Hornets senior defender Nate Learman cleared a Skyline free kick with five seconds remaining to salt away the game for Saline. Skyline was pressuring Saline’s side of the pitch in the final minute, earning a pair of set pieces to no avail.
Saline junior midfielder Zeke Gray scored the match’s lone goal at the 16:28 mark of the first half off an assist from Ryan Nichols. Gray has 12 goals on the year.
Tuesday’s goal came on a second-chance opportunity when Nichols redirected a rebound towards a wide open Gray.
“Ryan served me up a great ball, he placed it perfectly,” Gray said. “I got it at the 20-yard line, got a couple touches in, kept my focus and found the back of the net.”
Saline upped its record to 12-1-3. Goalie Quinn Fox was credited with his 12th shutout of the season, a campaign in which the Hornets defense has only surrendered four goals. Fox totaled five saves Tuesday.
Last month, Saline beat Skyline 2-1 at home in their first showdown of 2018. Host Skyline’s loss Tuesday slid its record to 9-3-2.
“We didn’t capitalize on some things we should have, we’ve still got to improve on our set pieces if we want to get where we need to be,” Skyline coach Chris Morgan said. “It’s a process though. We’ve got to keep our eyes on the prize. We can’t get too caught up in the hype or the expectations. Tonight, we played a good, solid match. And we can build off that.”
Morgan’s 2013 Skyline club captured a state championship. His last two squads have been upset in the districts. This year’s team entered the campaign ranked No. 1 in the state according to some preseason polls. The Eagles missed their emotional leader Siggy Tu Tuesday night. Skyline’s senior captain and midfielder broke his ankle last Thursday.
“Siggy’s presence is missed. He’s a true field general, but we have to press forward and other people are going to have to step up and fill the void his absence has left,” Morgan said.