Troy Athens coach Todd Heugh is superstitious.
That’s why in 90-degree weather he was wearing a red and white jacket, and hadn’t shaved in a while.
“The jacket will probably come off at some point,” he said before Wednesday’s semifinal showdown with Grand Blanc.
It never did. And his Red Hawks never scored, either.
Instead, Grand Blanc freshman Morgen Metzger delivered the biggest shot of her season in a 1-0 victory at Rochester High School.
The Bobcats (18-5-5) advanced to Saturday’s 4 p.m. final at Michigan State against the East Kentwood-Saline winner. Grand Blanc, state runner-up in 2004, has defeated three top 10 teams on its way to this year’s final.
“Annie (Walker) crossed the ball in and I hit it and it went right over the keeper under the crossbar,” said Metzger of her third goal of the season. “It feels really good. I never dreamt this would happen. I was really glad it went in.”
Said Grand Blanc coach Greg Kehler: “That was a great play. What a play by a freshman, huh? We got the ball and she kind of made a run from her attacking central spot. Annie had made a run away and drew a couple of defenders away, which was kind of key.
“Morgan slid into that open space and caught a ball on a bounce and made a half volley, which was a beautiful shot for her, for us.”
Kehler said the tough Kensington Lakes Athletic Association prepared his team for a long tournament run.
“Credit to our division and our league,” he said. “We have tough conference. Brighton twice and Hartland twice and having to crossover and play Canton … they prepare us really well. I told the girls we weren’t playing bad all year. We were getting some unlucky results. We’ve never given up more than two goals a game. We got into the tournament and once we got through the district round, which was kind of tense against Davison in a shoot-out, we settled in.”
The Red Hawks (16-5-4) are not strangers to playing this time of year, although this group was toddlers when the team won its most-recent state title in 2000. Athens also won titles in 1993, 1991 and 1989.
Most of Wednesday’s first half was spent battling near mid-field with few scoring chances. Goalies Amy Puidokas (Grand Blanc) and Amanda Harris (Athens) weren’t busy, and the shots on goal weren’t difficult.
“They (defense) helped me a ton,” said Puidokas. “I had quite an easy game because they were working their butt off.”
Athens had a free-kick with 36:32 left in the second half, but Ashley Leonard’s kick sailed wide left.
With a little over 32 minutes left, Grand Blanc nearly scored on a corner kick, but the Athens defense held firm.
Seconds later Leonard had a boomer that just missed going in as Athens picked up the offensive pressure.
Metzger finally got the Bobcats on the board at 29:42 with a high arcing shot that Harris couldn’t reach.
“They’re a good team,” said Heugh. “We played without two of our main mid-fielders. One couldn’t go very much today at all and the other got hurt in the first 10 minutes of the game. We had to make adjustments on the fly.”