GROSSE POINTE — Sometimes, a stroke of bad luck is all it takes in soccer to end a team’s season, and unfortunately for Fraser, the Ramblers took their first loss of the season in a regional semifinal against Bloomfield Hills.
Ethan Garcia scored the only goal of the game with 18:36 left in the contest to give Bloomfield Hills the victory. Garcia was able to corral a loose ball following a corner kick and volleyed a shot from about 20 yards away to score.
“I thought it was just a matter of luck. He (Garcia) turns around and hits it. We had some some golden chances around their net and just couldn’t get one in,” Fraser coach Thaier Mukhtar said.
The goal was a shock to Garcia, as well.
“I looked up and it was going over the goalie, and it took about 10 seconds for me to believe it happened,” Garcia said. “I was just going for broke. I still can’t believe it went in. I’ve never hit a shot like that, and to do it at this time of the season is really something special.”
Fraser outshot Bloomfields Hills 21-12, but Bloomfield Hills keeper Griffin Hamel was up to the task of stopping Fraser. His last stop with 35 seconds left proved to be the most dramatic.
Fraser had one last opportunity to tie the game, but Matt Lang’s shot from 25 yards away with 35 seconds left barely deflected off Hamel’s hand, then off of the crossbar, before being cleared by a Bloomfield Hills defender. Hamel finished the night with 11 saves.
“Griffin (Hamel) said he got a finger on it,” Bloomfield Hills coach Dougie MacAulay said. “He had to be on his toes tonight. He’s one of those players that’s good in any game, but he was really up for this one tonight.”
Lang controlled the action for Fraser’s offensive attack by firing eight shots throughout the game. Lang came into the contest with 27 goals this season, so MacAulay knew his side would have to put much of their focus defensively on the Fraser captain.
“Lang is a very special player, and we knew that we couldn’t give him an inch. If he got an inch on his left foot, we knew we were in trouble, but I thought Jahza Klochko-Khoo did a great job on him,” MacAulay said.
Fraser’s season concluded with a record of 18-1-5. The Ramblers went 11-0-1 in MAC White play to win a league championship, and they defeated Warren De La Salle in the district semifinal before beating Warren Cousino 6-0 to win a district title.
“I told them I don’t know of any team that’s gone 24 games into a season with the only loss at the end of regionals with only five seniors on the team. That’s amazing because, usually, seniors lead championship teams. These five seniors did a great job getting these boys to this point,” Mukhtar said.
Those five seniors are Lang, Nathan East, David Driest, Kevin Gault and Zach Tosoian. All five were named captains.
Fraser was led this year by a defensive line that surrendered seven goals all season. The Ramblers shut out 17 opponents, while junior keeper Alec Sharpe set a school record with 15 shutouts.
“Our defense is stellar, and I thought that in that situation, they played tough, and I think that we can play anybody and not give up more than one goal,” Mukhtar said.
With a majority of this year’s team scheduled to return, Mukhtar is hopeful that his group will be hungry for more success in 2014.
“I’m a firm believer that when you get a little taste of something, you want more and more,” Mukhtar said. “Last year, our expectations got higher and higher, and this year, they came in thinking they’re not going to lose a game. It’s a mindset, and I’m very proud of these boys, and they’ll be back.”