Ford II girls soccer, softball teams win regional titles

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 17, 2014

 The Utica Ford II girls soccer team won its first regional title since 1988. Pictured is Falcons senior defender Rachel Thomas looking to advance the ball during a June 4 regional semifinal win over Troy Athens.

The Utica Ford II girls soccer team won its first regional title since 1988. Pictured is Falcons senior defender Rachel Thomas looking to advance the ball during a June 4 regional semifinal win over Troy Athens.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

The 2014 edition of the Utica Ford II girls soccer team advanced further in the postseason than any Falcons team in more than a quarter century.

A 1-0 win over Grosse Pointe South June 6 in a Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 regional final gave the Ford II girls soccer program its first regional championship since 1988. The Falcons won in a shootout after the two teams went scoreless through two overtime sessions.

Ford II junior midfielder Bella Sortzi scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal. Sortzi was the fourth Falcons player to take a shot in the shootout. All three South players failed to score. Ford II junior goalkeeper Nikki Topping in the shootout dove left, right and stopped a shot that was right in her face to help keep her team’s season alive.

“I was just looking at them and at their eyes and their hips,” Topping said after the regional title win. “I was just watching them to make sure they weren’t tricking me, and I got lucky.”

Through the regional final, The Falcons outscored five playoff opponents 16-1. The June 6 win gave Ford II a 15-4-1 record, making the 2014 season the first time since 2007 the Falcons recorded double-digit wins.

“It started back in the second week of school where we were getting up at 5 a.m. and putting in a lot of hard work and doing a lot of extra things,” Falcons coach Teri Steinwascher said June. “That’s all paying off now. Their hearts are tremendous and the leadership is awesome, and it’s nice to have Nikki Topping on my side.”

Ford II’s momentum was slowed, though, in a 3-0 loss to Utica Eisenhower June 11 in a D-1 state semifinal. The Eagles and Falcons (15-5-1) finished first and second, respectively, in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division. The win was the third of the season for Eisenhower over Ford II.

All three Eagles scores came in the second half. Eisenhower (18-1-2 at press time) faced Northville High in a D-1 state title match after press time.

“(We weren’t) supposed to be here,” Steinwascher said after the June 11 setback. “(Eisenhower is) supposed to be here. We made them battle to the point where (Eagles coach Mehrdad Nekoogar) couldn’t even make substitutions and get kids off of the bench until there were two minutes left, so that was a hard-fought battle our kids put up out there.”

Steinwascher June 11 said she’s proud of her players and how hard they worked, and called the 2014 season a good one.

The Ford II coach also talked about the seven seniors she loses to graduation — Meghan Bogg, Heather Dzieciolowski, Hannah Alston, Amanda Mladenovski, Krista Sabin, Ashley Bogan and Rachel Thomas — and said that group has provided outstanding leadership. Steinwascher said younger players, such as Topping, stepped up big time this season, as well.

“You can’t be upset,” Steinwascher said. “I know we lost, but I’m not upset with them. Eisenhower is a great team — don’t take anything away from them. They put three goals in, and two of them came after we made adjustments to try and go get a goal. You lose by one or you lose by three — whatever. I’m not upset at all. I’m very proud of them.”

Ford II softball falls in state quarterfinals

The Utica Ford II softball team won its second straight MHSAA D-1 regional championship and reached the 30-win mark.

The Falcons’ season ended, though, in a 1-0 loss to Portage Central in a state semifinal June 12 at Michigan State University. The lone run came off of the bat of Portage Central pitcher Gina Verdusco, who hit a single to score a run in the top of the sixth inning.

The Falcons end the season at 30-9. The 2014 campaign marked the third straight year Ford II won at least 20 games.

To advance to the state semis, the Falcons knocked off Garden City High 6-4 in a D-1 state quarterfinal June 10 at Wayne State University. Ford II bested Warren Regina 3-2 in eight innings June 7 to clinch a second straight regional title. To advance to the regional final, the Falcons used a furious comeback to best St. Clair Shores Lake Shore 11-10 in a regional semi June 7. The Falcons plated six runs in the bottom of the seventh to pick up the win.

For more on the 2014 state playoffs, check and

Staff Writer Thomas Franz contributed to this report.