Troy Athens boys soccer advances to state semifinal with win against Chippewa Valley

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published October 24, 2019

 Troy Athens junior Jack Musto gets a kick off against Warren De La Salle during a Division 1 regional semifinal Oct. 22. After getting a win against De La Salle, Athens went on to beat Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 3-2 in a regional championship.

Troy Athens junior Jack Musto gets a kick off against Warren De La Salle during a Division 1 regional semifinal Oct. 22. After getting a win against De La Salle, Athens went on to beat Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 3-2 in a regional championship.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

Advertisement

Troy — With what may have been the biggest kick of his life, Troy Athens senior Andri Myftari delivered the winning goal on a free kick in the second overtime of a Division 1 regional final against Clinton Township Chippewa Valley Oct. 24 at Troy High.

Myftari’s goal came with less than 10 seconds remaining on the game clock and gave his team a 3-2 victory.

If time had expired, the game would have gone to a shootout.

With the win, the Red Hawks advance to the semifinal round of the playoffs for the first time since 2016, where they will play at 6 p.m. Oct. 30 at Troy against either Ann Arbor Pioneer or Salem High.

Athens (21-2-1) came into the game having not given up a goal during the postseason.

After Athens had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 during the game, Chippewa came back to tie it twice, once in the second half and once in the second overtime.

It was just the second time this season a team has scored two goals against the Red Hawks.

“Thrilled our kids didn’t quit,” Athens coach Todd Heugh said following the game. “Soccer is a game of moments and chances. … I thought that our kids responded well when they tied the game at 2-2. Instead of folding and sniffing a little bit (of) adversity, they were sniffing victory.”

The game could have had a very different outcome if Athens had not been able to recover from Chippewa’s comebacks.

“The pressure is there, of course, but I think we (have) that self belief we’re (going to) get another one, and I think that’s what let us prevail,” Myftari said.

Chippewa came away from the season with the program’s first district championship since 2014 and took a team that is ranked No. 2 in the state by the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association to double overtime of a regional final.

Before that, Chippewa shared a Macomb Area Conference Red Division championship with Utica Eisenhower.

“We were right in it at (the) end,” said Chippewa coach Gerry Haggarty. “I’m proud of the way the kids played. We weren’t expected to be here. We weren’t even ranked for the most part all year. … It was a great season. Going into this game we were 16-3. We won the league, we won a district, and we came close to winning a regional.”

Heading into the playoffs last year, Athens hadn’t lost a game all season until a 1-0 setback against Utica Ford II in a district final.

The emotions Heugh was feeling after his team beat Chippewa were very different than what he was going through around this time last year.

“We have learned so much over the years on the highs and the lows of a single-elimination tournament,” Heugh said. “Last year was a stinger for us. This group of seniors just won their 42nd soccer game in two years. … Winning is not a surprise for them, but losing early last year was a bummer.”

Some of the players on Athens’ squad were part of the team when the program finished as the D-1 state runner-up in 2016.

“Those kids saw it, and it’s something that they’ve been reaching for, for a long time, but it’s hard; it just is,” Heugh said. “It’s hard to get out of a district and it’s hard to get out of a regional. You get to this level, everyone’s got nothing to lose. … It makes the tournament fun, and it makes the tournament heartbreaking at the same time.”

Although Chippewa had over a dozen seniors on its roster this season, some of the program’s younger players had a chance to observe what goes into making a deep run in the playoffs.

“We had some younger guys,” Haggarty said. “We had a freshman and a sophomore. I think it’s valuable for them and some of the kids we brought up from the JV. They’ll see what it takes to get here, the effort. I think when you get this far it’s a great experience for everyone. Hopefully, it carries over into next year.”

Athens senior Jaden Makowski scored the lone goal of the first half.

Chippewa junior Luis Ribao evened things up with a goal in the second.

With the game tied 1-1 at the end of regulation, Athens senior Davis DiGiovanni scored a go-ahead goal, helping give his team 2-1 lead after the first overtime.

Ribao’s second goal of the contest tied the game 2-2 in the second overtime.

Advertisement