By JAMES COOK email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — If recent history repeats itself, expect Wednesday’s Division 1 soccer semifinal to be a one-goal game.
Traverse City West (16-6-3) travels to Midland to take on Bloomfield Hills (15-2-5) with a state championship game berth on the line. Both teams have won their last four postseason games by one goal — five by 2-1 margins and a trio of 1-0 decisions.
“Hopefully we can continue to be very good defensively and keep teams to a goal or less,” West coach Jason Carmien said. “We really haven’t won a game this year where we needed to score three goals. The formula is pretty simple for us: We’ve got to be pretty good defensively and keep the game close and then hopefully we can be opportunistic. ... If we’re called upon to score three or four goals, then I don’t think anybody is confident that it would work out for us. We’ll have to continue what we’ve been doing, which is to hold teams to a limited amount of chances and a limited amount of goals.”
And the Titans have been able to do just that in its last four games to be one of the state’s final four teams remaining. West’s combination of stout defense, great goaltending and an opportunistic offense have held opponents to just three goals in four playoff games.
The last three of those wins have come after 80 minutes of regulation.
“I think the boys are not really afraid of much of anything,” Carmien said. “We’ve been taking it one game at a time, like you do in a tournament. We’ve had to play overtime now for three straight games — that’s just kind of the way it goes.”
Bloomfield Hills — a new school created by the merger of Bloomfield Hills Lahser and Andover — has posted all five postseason victories against winning teams. In regionals, they toppled 17-6-3 Utica and handed 18-1-5 Fraser its first setback of the season.
“We know they’re obviously talented,” Carmien said, “because both of those schools were pretty good Class B schools last year.”
While West has had its fair share of extra time, winning three of its four postseason contests either in overtime or a shootout, the Black Hawks have been in a similar boat. Only one of Bloomfield Hills’ playoffs wins was in extra time, but the Hawks have won their last four by one goal each, including a 2-1 district win over Birmingham Brother Rice in a shootout in which Bloomfield scored on all seven penalty-kick shots.
In those four wins, Bloomfield has seen four of its five goals come from forward Ethan Garcia (two) and defender Bel Kileen (two). Conor Wahl had the other, a score off a corner kick assisted by Kileen in the 2-1 regional final win over Utica, a team that had upset No. 1-ranked Troy Athens in districts.
“They score on a lot of set plays, a lot of corners,” Carmien said. “They get things done with those.”
Kileen scored off a Garcia corner kick in the Black Hawks’ 2-1 district semifinal win over Birmingham Brother Rice and Kileen’s penalty kick was the only goal in a 1-0 district final win over Royal Oak. Garcia scored two goals in regionals, and West’s Christien Geiger also put up a pair of regional goals and Alex Patton tallied the only score in the regional title game with Rochester Adams.
West will have a little advantage in the neutral-site game in that the Titans played both of their regional games on Midland’s aging turf field that produces a lot of bounces.
The site and time of Saturday’s Division 1 championship game will be released the morning after the semifinals.
“We’ve got to take care of things on Wednesday,” Carmien said. “And if we play well enough, then we can talk about Saturday if we earn it.”
The other D-1 semifinal pits No. 3-ranked Ann Arbor Skyline against Plymouth Salem.