Rochester soccer’s senior group eyes state title

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Rochester Post | Published May 10, 2023

 Rochester sophomore goalkeeper Alice Max  makes the save during Rochester’s 0-0 tie against  Bloomfield Hills April 18.

Rochester sophomore goalkeeper Alice Max makes the save during Rochester’s 0-0 tie against Bloomfield Hills April 18.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Rochester sophomore defender Riley Simpson carries the ball.

Rochester sophomore defender Riley Simpson carries the ball.

Photo by Patricia O’Blene


ROCHESTER HILLS — Just over two months ago, Rochester girls basketball was etching its name in the school’s trophy room with a district championship title behind seniors Alaina Webb, Natalie Rayce and Ava Williams.

Now, the same senior core is leading Rochester girls soccer toward not only its second-straight district title, but a shot at a Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 State Championship.

“Right after we had won that district, I remember thinking in my mind, and I know I talked to a couple of the girls, that we have the opportunity to win two districts this year,” Webb said. “After basketball season, we were like, ‘All right, this is our last go.’ We want another district championship.”

Webb (forward), Rayce (midfielder) and Williams (midfielder), who all earned all-state honors last season, were a dynamic trio for Rochester soccer last season and continue to be veteran leaders in 2023 alongside four-year starters Ella Massa (defender) and Samantha Mickley (forward), and Detroit Mercy commit senior defender Leila Lanier. Seniors Mallory Gentry (defender), Maeve Comfort (midfielder) and Ella Wozniack round out the senior group.

Rochester had a magical run in 2022 as a 17-1-4 season led it right to the doorstep of the state finals, but a semifinals loss to Northville would close the door on a storybook season.

Currently unbeaten at 12-0-1 and ranked as the top team in Division 1 according to the MHSAA, it’s safe to say the team is ready to rewrite last season’s story.

“We all kind of got a taste of what a state championship could feel like last season, and we made it one of our goals this season to do everything we could to get that state championship, because a lot of us were really devastated last season,” junior forward Katelyn Guolla said. “Even though we got super far, we know that we could do more, and we just want to do it this season.”

Guolla, who also played for the district-winning basketball team, leads an impressive junior class alongside defender Kiera Nagy, forward Presley Johnson, forward Karsen Jackson, forward Emme Crossley and midfielder Nishka Sawkar.

Sophomores Keily Robinson (midfielder), Emma Barker (defender), Riley Simpson (defender), Alice Max — a 6-foot-1 goalkeeper, and freshman midfielder Romi McGuire round out the impact underclassmen for Rochester.

Guolla said the underclassmen and juniors have been able to progress the way that they have because of the senior leadership.

“They’ve had a huge impact on my growth,” Guolla said. “They’re always pushing each other and everyone on the team to be better, especially me. I feel like last year when they were juniors, and even the seniors last year, and when I was a sophomore, they were always pushing me to be my best. They brought out the best in me as a player, and the reason why I was successful last year was really because they pushed me every day.”

Allowing less than a goal per game, Rochester’s defense has been dominant this season, pitching a shutout in six matches this season.

Having Max in net is a great start, but the defensive effort has been due to all of Rochester’s lines moving as one.

On the offensive side, Rochester has averaged just under three goals per game this year, scoring three or more in seven games.

Guolla said the team’s confidence has continued to grow.

“Throughout the season, everyone has grown a lot as players and as people, and I think the way we all get along portrays how we play on the field,” Guolla said. “In the beginning games, we were kind of struggling on finding our groove a little bit, but now that we know each other and we trust each other, it’s a lot easier and more fun to play with each other.”

While Rochester handled its out-of-conference schedule so far this season, playing in the Oakland Activities Association-Red Conference is always a tough ask for any team.

With four ranked teams in the division, including Rochester, Rochester’s current unbeaten record is a significant step toward repeating as OAA-Red champions.

“We’ve definitely talked about taking it one game at a time and being 1-0 after every game, but at the end of the day, they have some goals to try to win the Red in back-to-back years, which doesn’t happen often,” Rochester coach Doug Steinard said. “Trying to win the district in back-to-back years, which doesn’t happen often — it’s going to be really hard.”

With four games left before the MHSAA state tournament, Rochester currently holds first place in the division over Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, whom Rochester hosted May 10, after press time, in a division-deciding game.

There’s no doubt about Rochester athletics; success is constant from the athletic programs, and girls soccer is another example of the winning culture.

“We’ve grown as a program together, and the expectations at Rochester High historically have been you have to be good all the time, and we’ve achieved some of that so far,” Steinard said. “Your first group of kids, and anytime you take a job and you have a freshman or multiple freshmen that play four years for you, it’s a special relationship. One of the best things about our program is the culture and relationship we have as a team. These kids genuinely care about each other.”