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GIRLS SOCCER: Bloomfield Hills gains draw against No. 1-ranked Rochester



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ROCHESTER HILLS – With two league losses already, Bloomfield Hills likely won’t win the OAA Red Division title this year. But the Blackhawks might just have a say in it.

Bloomfield Hills came into Rochester – which moved atop of the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association Division 1 polls released on Sunday night – and came away with a 0-0 league draw Tuesday against the defending league champion Falcons.

Last year, Rochester rallied back from a 3-1 deficit to hand the Blackhawks a 4-3 loss in league play. The Blackhawks only lost two games last season (3-0 to Troy Athens and 4-3 to Rochester and both of those games came in April). Eventually, Bloomfield Hills finished third in a seven-school OAA-Red league that featured six ranked teams and four schools that won at least districts crowns (Bloomfield Hills, Rochester, Troy Athens and Lake Orion) last season.

The Blackhawks were 13-0-2 after that defeat to Rochester last year on April 19, 2022.

This time around chances were a premium this time around and none from either side found their way into the webbing.

“We probably won’t win the league, which is okay because we’re a lot younger this year and last year we were only third in the league,” said Bloomfield Hills coach Alan Zakaria. “I thought it was great team defending. It starts with the goalkeeper and then through the defensive lines and all 11 players committing to working hard, defending and grinding. I thought against an explosive team like that you have to do that – play great team defense. I was really proud of our effort the way we played a full 80 minutes today against a very good team. We didn’t give them very many scoring chances and Rochester is a very dangerous team with a lot of very good players.”

Lola Halsband, Lauren Cuson and Tess Wright all logged 80 minutes in the backfield for Bloomfield Hills and silenced Rochester’s high-scoring offense led by returning All-State standouts Natalie Rayce, Alaina Webb and Ava Williams.

Now ranked 11th, the Blackhawks – who lost six starters from last year’s Division 1 state championship team – played stellar defense to limit the scoring chances for the high-powered Falcons, who only lost once last season and reached the state semifinals for the fifth time in school history. Bloomfield Hills became the first team to blank Rochester since the Falcons tied Plymouth Canton 0-0 on May 14, 2022.

“Bloomfield Hills did play great defense against us. It’s the way they play, too,” offered Rochester coach Doug Steinard. “We didn’t finish the chances we had. The way they play makes it really difficult. They work extremely hard and fly around and double team (our forwards). They make it messy defensively and they really frustrated us. And when we did get a shot off, a lot of them were wide of the goal or over. We didn’t put very many on frame. And we were playing the defending state champs. They have an attitude. They have experience, even though they lost some really good players. I thought it was really exciting game and I’m sure it was fun to watch for fans. They did a great job, credit to them. Credit to us. We didn’t give up many dangerous chances, either. This was just a very good high school soccer game.”

Rochester (5-0-1, 2-0-1) held a 12-6 edge in total shots, but failed to generate many dangerous shots, as only three shots were on frame against Bloomfield Hills junior goalkeeper Jenica Opdahl, an All-State First Team keeper last season and a key cog in the 15-2-3 campaign.

Rochester’s best chance came midway through the second half when Williams broke free down the right side and from just outside the corner of the box was able to laser a low shot that just went wide of the far post. Rayce also had a couple of close-range chances but couldn’t convert.

Both teams mustered five cornerkicks, although twice in the last five minutes the Blackhawks (3-2-1, 1-2-1) were able to gain a couple of swipes from the corner.

Rochester 6-foot-1 sophomore goalkeeper Alice Max, also a Division I basketball recruit, notched three saves for her third clean sheet of the young campaign. She was quick to thwart the five cornerkicks and several crosses and long throw-ins into the penalty box.

Opdahl collected three saves for her fourth shutout of the season and 15th in two years. Bloomfield Hills has only outscored the opposition 8-4 this season but played its fourth straight school that is ranked in the top 15 in Division 1. In comparison Bloomfield Hills outscored the opposition 67-21 last season with 11 shutouts, although 12 of those goals against came during the Blackhawks’ first five games on the 2022 campaign.

“We’re a different team than last year. We lost some good players and we’re trying to work in some new starters,” said Zakaria. “We are finally getting outside and training with a lot of good practices. And then we’ve played some really good teams the past couple of weeks.”

Bloomfield Hills has played a brutal stretch that featured state-ranked foes Rochester Stoney Creek (3-0 loss), Troy Athens (1-0 loss), Troy (1-0 win) and Rochester (0-0 draw) over the course of 12 days and all of those opponents have been ranked in the top 15 since the preseason. Those four opponents were also mainstays in the rankings last season.

Bloomfield Hills’ best chance came with 34:14 left in the first half, when sophomore Lauren Henry uncorked a breakaway shot following a Rochester backfield miscue that sailed harmlessly over the crossbar. All three of the Blackhawks’ three second-half shots came in the final 10 minutes while Bloomfield Hills also had two cornerkicks and two of those shots in the final five minutes that were cleared away by either Max or Rochester’s stingy defense.

“Usually cornerkicks scare me in soccer, but not with this team,” said Steinard, whose squad has outscored its six opponents 17-3 this season with one game against Okemos having to be completed on May 1 due to rain. “With the way Alice (Max) plays with those long arms and her ability to just go out there and snag the ball. Plus, Kiely Robinson is 6-foot, Leila Lanier is 5-11 and Ella Massa is 5-10. We have great height and great athletes in our backfield and we don’t give up a lot of goals off corners and other restarts.”

Rochester finished 17-1-4 last season and 4-0-2 in conference play. The Falcons’ only loss came in a 2-1 setback to Northville in the state semifinals – one game away from a state finals appearance and what would have been an all-OAA finals. Rochester returned 10 of 11 starters, 13 of the top 15 players from last year and a bevy of experience.

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