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May 21, 2014

Ferndale High soccer finding success with new plan of attack

By Christian Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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Ferndale High’s Kerry Sanders (9) and Karly Wilson (3) congratulate each other after another goal against Hazel Park High earlier this season. The Eagles won 3-0 and could see the Vikings again in a Division 2 district semifinal.

FERNDALE — After learning that one of his top offensive threats wouldn’t be available this season due to injury, Ferndale High girls soccer coach Mike Kuzniar decided a change in playing philosophy was needed.

“I normally prefer a faster pace, push it up the field and go, but when I saw our personnel and knowing what I have, we decided to try and play it this way,” he said.

The Eagles have traded in the up-tempo offensive attacks, for a grind-it-out approach focusing on defense.

“We added a defender, so basically, we’re playing with five defensemen and then support from the midfield. … That seems to help, and when you’re playing against a team that can control the ball and move it, that helps to clog it up and it’s a frustrating defense to go up against,” Kuzniar said.

“It translates to a little less offensive punch, but if we can hold and hold until we get numbers the other way, that’s a good thing.”

The style has also translated into a winning record. The Eagles were 6-4-2 overall at press time and 2-2 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division.

“It’s worked for the most part. … You have to grind it out playing that way,” Kuzniar said of the system, adding that his team has registered four shutouts. “They’ve embraced it.”

With the Blue Division title out of reach, Kuzniar said the squad is now setting its sights on the Division 2 playoffs.

The Eagles drew a first-round bye and play the winner of host Hazel Park High and Redford Union at 7 p.m. May 29 at Hazel Park.

The other side of the bracket has Warren Fitzgerald and Hamtramck High playing two hours before Ferndale’s semifinal contest.

The championship is 11 a.m. May 31.

“We have a great opportunity to win it, and that’s our goal,” Kuzniar said.

Ferndale has beaten Hazel Park, Union and Hamtramck this season, but hasn’t seen Fitzgerald.

Regardless, Kuzniar knows nothing will come easy, noting that Union and Hazel Park are very well-coached.

If it’s Hazel Park the Eagles meet in the second round, there is a history between the two Blue Division programs.

“There’s a rivalry between Ferndale and Hazel Park, so we’ll never take them for granted. They’ve got three or four players that are very good and impact the game,” Kuzniar said. “They’re shooting for us, so we have to be ready for them.”

Catch the Eagles in its final regular-season game, as they take on Berkley High at 7 p.m. May 22 on the road.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Christian Davis at cdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1062. Twitter Follow Christian on Twitter.