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Metro Detroit high school girls soccer notebook: Salem off to rock-solid start, top-five ranking

Salem lost 14 girls and eight starters from last year’s team that only had one loss — which came in the state tournament — but has reloaded its talent and is primed for another run this year.

With only six total returners and three returning starters, Salem is off to a 7-1-3 start and is ranked No. 5 in the state, according to the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association (MIHSSCA).

“This group has done a very good job of kind of accommodating some changes and fitting into their roles and responsibilities quickly and has proven that they can have some success early on,” Salem coach Kyle Karns said.

The team is led by its two senior captains, midfielder Emma Dennison and goalie Eva Holloway, who have both stepped up in different ways at different times to guide the youthful squad to victories.

Dennison has been the vocal leader in the heart of the field, while Holloway has been a stone wall in net, giving Salem chance after chance in tightly-contested games.

Salem has a tough schedule remaining in the KLAA, but Karns is hopeful that playing the top teams in the state during the regular season can give them the experience necessary for the playoffs.

“Our primary focus is to continue having success in our own division, knowing that if we do so, then we're putting ourselves in a pretty good position for playoffs,” Karns said.

New coach, system working for Northville

After spending 18 years as a coach in the Canton school district, Northville coach Jeannine Reddy was prepared to move on from coaching high school soccer.

Reddy took the close-to-home job with Northville before the beginning of this year because she wanted to continue to coach in a new scenery after spending nearly two decades in the same spot.

“Coming in new and I think for the girls, it might have been a little nerve-racking for them. But I think they were excited at the same time because I made it clear to them that they play to earn their spot.”

The team has quickly bought into the new coach’s mantras and the success has been immediate. Northville is off to an 11-0-3 start to the season and on track to win the KLAA, despite the division having four teams in the top 10 in the state.

Emily Takahashi and Lauren Moraitis, two senior defenders, have been a big reason why. After playing club soccer year-round instead of high school soccer, they decided to play high school in their final year, and they have been a big reason why Northville has only allowed two goals all season. In the middle, Caroline Doody and Brooke Pendleton are another senior duo who have lifted Northville with their solid play and ability to create an attack out of thin air.

Northville enters the final two weeks of the regular season with an inside track on the KLAA division title but faces a gauntlet over the next two weeks, playing Canton, Salem and Hartland to solidify their chances.

Experience key to Rochester’s OAA division title

Rochester clinched the OAA Red Division this week after a 1-1 tie with Troy on Tuesday night. The team is still undefeated with a record of 9-0-2.

The Falcons came into the season returning nearly every starter from last year’s team that lost in the first round of districts to rival Rochester Adams. They only had to replace three seniors, and the continuity from last year has been a big reason for the success this year.

The junior class has led the way in terms of on-field contributions for Rochester. The trio of Natalie Rayce, Alaina Webb and Ava Williams have steadied the team from the midfield, while captain Leila Lanier is one of the team’s defensive anchors from left-back.

The group, primarily freshman and sophomores then, came together for the varsity season in 2020 that was cancelled because of the pandemic, and they have grown in the two years since to become division champions.

“We had a good year last year, (we) went 10-3-3 and then only graduated three players, three starters,” Rochester coach Doug Steinard said. “So, it's kind of been a culmination of this, building to this season.

Jared Ramsey is a freelance writer.