District Soccer Preview: Skyline, Pioneer face strong challenges in today’s semifinals

The stage is set. The pitch is ready. And it may or may not rain. Welcome to the MHSAA Division 1 Soccer Districts.

Skyline advanced last week with an easy 8-0 win over Ypsilanti. Gabe Kellman scored three goals and Tyler Warren and Noah Thompson kicked in two. Kyan Steudel added a goal for the Eagles.

The Eagles advanced to today’s (Oct. 20) semifinal game against host Dexter. The Dreadnaughts knocked out Huron 3-1 in their District opener. Jack Kolka scored two goals for Dexter – both on corner kicks.

“I think the key to beating Dexter in this game will be our pace of play and sticking to our game and not theirs,” says Caleb Sauers, one of three Skyline captains. “Another important piece to beating Dexter is to focus on just Dexter, and not worrying about anything beyond Dexter. We need to be 100 percent focused on the task at hand in order for us to be able to win and move on to our next game.”

Big picture, Sauers, thinks his team is ready for this great challenge.

“This District is always tough, but I think we are up to the challenge this year,” he says. “We have a lot of seniors on our team, and these next games could be some of the last games some of us might ever play. I think this will help push our guys to play to our best abilities and really put on a good show this Tuesday.”

The other side of the bracket features another huge game against equally as good and even opponents.

Pioneer advanced last week with a 7-0 win over Lincoln in their first-round game. The Pioneers had goals from seven different players – Dan Gutenberg, Dan McDonough, Evan Chamberlain, Ollie Schnelling, Alvin Ding, Connor Lyle and Luca Giuliano.

Pioneer will face SEC Red champion Saline in Tuesday’s semifinal game at 7 p.m. at Saline. The Hornets blanked Belleville 3-0 in their first District contest.

Saline defeated Pioneer in the first meeting this year on a goal in the final minute. They tied the second time they met at Pioneer. The Pioneers knocked out Saline in last year’s District final.

Pioneer has had many games that they have controlled the play and scored impressive wins when they finished – as in put the ball in the net. But they also have had games they controlled play, but didn’t finish and a few of those didn’t go as well.

The Pioneers are going to have to finish – as in put the ball in the net – because the Hornets aren’t going to give them many opportunities. The same can be said for Saline. And the team that doesn’t finish, might just be finished for the season.

Just an FYI, the four evenly matched teams in the semifinals won their first-round games by a combined score of 21-1. Yeah, pretty impressive.

The finals are at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Saline.