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June 11, 2014

Athens soccer falls in regional semifinal

Heugh likes direction program is headed

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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There was plenty to celebrate in 2014 for Athens, which set a program record for ties in a season and captured a D-1 district title.

TROY — If it wasn’t tight, it wasn’t right.

That summed up the spring of 2014 for the Troy Athens soccer team.

In just about every game the girls played this year, it was a goal difference on the scoreboard.

And in last week’s regional semifinal against Utica Ford, things didn’t change.

Athens and Ford played to a scoreless tie in regulation.

The teams then battled through two scoreless overtimes before Ford won in the shootout, scoring four times to the Red Hawks’ three.

]“We played very, very well,” coach Todd Heugh said of the 1-0 loss and the way his girls had their season come to a close. “It was our second straight game of 100 minutes, and unlike the district final (2-1 shootout victory against Royal Oak), we didn’t get the bounce. When a game goes to a shootout, it’s essentially a skills competition with some luck sprinkled in. … Ford made one more play in this game than we did.”

Playing in tight games was nothing new to Athens, which finished the year 8-6-10, setting a program record for ties in a season.

“And we won, and lost, a good number of one-goal games,” Heugh said.

His team started the year 1-4-1 before finding its groove.

Entering the regional semifinal, the Red Hawks had won five straight games.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the season,” Heugh said. “We started slow, found a rhythm, figured out some lineups that worked for us, and we got on a roll. We were prepared coming into the tournament. We found our win streak at the end of the year, which is what you want.”

So why all the ties?

“We had a knack of defending well, playing well at the keeper position, and then we struggled to score,” Heugh said. Athens lost almost half of its 2013 scoring to graduation when last season ended. “We replaced that scoring with a lot of inexperience. At the same time, our schedule was so tough, it leads to games like that, where things are so close.”

But with seven sophomores and a freshman seeing significant playing time, the future looks very bright, Heugh said.

“The experience from this year is huge for us,” Heugh added. “I like the direction this program is headed in.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.