UTICA — It may be difficult to believe, given the delay that spring sports experienced due to the bitter winter this year, but playoff tournaments are set to begin or have already begun for every sport.
Locally, the soccer district tournament hosted by Utica Eisenhower may be one of the state’s strongest for any sport.
Coming off a fifth consecutive MAC Red regular-season title, Eisenhower (12-1-2 at press time) is hosting a district tournament that has two top-five ranked teams in Michigan for Division 1.
Eisenhower opened its district tournament against Lake Orion on May 27. The winner faces the winner of No. 5 Rochester Adams and No. 3 Rochester Hills Stoney Creek on May 31.
“Obviously, everybody knows that this district is, by far, the strongest district in the state. If you look at all of of the teams that are in there, they’re all good,” Eisenhower coach Mehrdad Nekoogar said. “Whoever wins this district has a very good opportunity to move up and go a long way.”
Coming into the season, Nekoogar hoped to have his team playing its best heading into the postseason, and he believed that he accomplished that.
“If you look at the second half of the season, we really beat up on a lot of the teams that, in the first half of the season, we struggled against. I’m very comfortable with where we’re at,” Nekoogar said.
Elsewhere in soccer action, Utica headed to the Fraser district to begin its postseason run. The Chieftains opened against MAC White opponent Fraser on May 27. The winner takes on Warren Mott in a semifinal on 4 p.m. May 29 at Fraser.
Softball and baseball squads facing difficult districts
As strong as Eisenhower’s soccer district may be, the softball district tournament hosted by Utica is comparable. It will feature the top two MAC Red teams and the MAC White champions.
Romeo, the MAC Red champions and one of the top-ranked teams in Division 1, will be joined by Utica (20-6, 10-0 White) and Eisenhower (23-8, 7-5 Red) in the district.
Eisenhower opened the district with a game against Rochester Hills Stoney Creek on May 27. The result of that game was not known at press time. Utica will host the winner at 10 a.m. on May 31. The winner of that semifinal could see Romeo (23-4) in a district final that same day at 2 p.m.
“I do believe our district is pretty competitive. I believe it’s one of the toughest,” Utica coach Deonna Giacona said. “When we go into districts, we’re expecting good competition. We know what to expect every year. Ike has been on a roll the second half of the season, Romeo has always been solid, but any team can come out at any moment and win.”
In baseball, Utica will also host a district tournament that has an identical bracket to softball. The Chieftains will play the winner of Eisenhower and Stoney Creek at 12:30 p.m. on May 31, with the winner advancing to play Romeo or Rochester at 3 p.m.
Ike lacrosse has showdown with Clarkston
After a thrilling victory against Grosse Pointe South to claim a share of the MAC Red title, Utica Eisenhower lacrosse, ranked No. 12 in the state by laxpower.com, defeated Anchor Bay in a preregional playoff game on May 19.
That win set up a first-round regional game against Romeo on May 23; the result was not available at press time. The winner of that game faces No. 4 Clarkston at 7:30 p.m. on May 28 at Troy Athens in a regional semifinal. Clarkston defeated Utica Ford II May 22.
Tennis, track teams head to states
Utica junior Davina Nguyen has high goals set for her third consecutive trip to the MHSAA Division 1 state finals.
Nguyen is looking to regain her No. 1 singles state title that she won two years ago.
After taking second place in its regional tournament as a team, Eisenhower will also be traveling to the state tournament, which will be held May 30-31 at the Midland Tennis Center.
In track, athletes from both schools who automatically qualified or finished in the top two places in their respective events at regionals will be traveling to Rockford High School for the MHSAA Division 1 state meet on May 31.