In 2010, strong team defense and the daring goalkeeping of Marissa Williams carried Plymouth to the Division 1 girls soccer finals.
Although this year’s Wildcats potentially could go just as far, the recipe is much different — plenty of speed and offensive creativity in the mix.
Exhibit A was Tuesday’s 5-2 victory over Salem in a D1 district opener at Plymouth-Canton Educational Park. Tallying two goals each were forward Madi Lewis and midfielder Jillian Aguirre, with forward Stephanie Sheridan also scoring.
Scoring for the Rocks (10-7-1) were Sarah Martin and Kylie Knight.
The Wildcats (14-2-3) now face Canton at 5 p.m. Thursday at Northville following the Chiefs’ 2-1 victory Tuesday over Livonia Stevenson.
“It’s nice to have a threat up there,” Plymouth head coach Jeff Neschich stated following the match. “It makes teams play you honestly … it grants you to play a different style and do a few different things.”
Plymouth’s primary threat is Lewis, but she has plenty of company in the way the Wildcats stretch the field and zip through defenders toward opposing goalkeepers.
Her 23rd goal of the season was one of three scored by Plymouth in the first half, with Aguirre and Sheridan helping the Wildcats break out to a 3-0 lead.
“We had to show up and play hard and we did,” Neschich said. “We got three quick goals and kind of took charge of the game, which was nice.
“We were able to play a lot of people, so we will be fresh for the next game.”
Before halftime, Salem answered when Martin converted a feed from Taylor Jaaska to make it 3-1.
Despite the halftime score, Salem head coach Joe Nora thought his team actually played much better than the two-goal deficit indicated.
“I thought we held more possession in the first half,” Nora said. “They had three runs and they scored on all three.”
After Nora made adjustments at halftime, the Wildcats responded when Lewis made it 4-1 at 8:08 of the second half. Lewis chipped a low shot behind Salem goalkeeper Ali Eggenberger.
Lewis had cranked a shot off the right goal post just moments earlier.
Plymouth padded its lead with 25:05 left, when Aguirre took a through-ball by senior midfielder Abigail Livingston and lofted a shot over Eggenberger into the top-right corner.
“That’s just how we play,” Aguirre said. “We always keep the pace up like that.”
Wrapping up the scoring with 6:35 remaining was Salem’s Knight, from Rodgers. Knight’s against-the-grain shot sailed over Plymouth goalie Kylie Robb.
Nora praised his team’s effort down the stretch despite the obvious final outcome.
He cited Knight’s goal and team hustle on defense — evidenced by senior midfielder Katelynn Krause’s block of Zoe Foster’s close-in attempt.
“Some teams would have folded it in and we kept playing until the very last whistle and that is due to the character of our seniors,” Nora said, listing co-captains Krause and Emily Lundh along with Megan McCormack, Claire Huddas and Gusty Kummer.
Despite the loss, Nora added “how proud I am of my girls. We did not get the result we wanted tonight, but this group of young ladies can hold their heads high for the effort and hard work they have played with all season.”
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