The introduction of Plymouth Salem girls soccer coach Scott Duhl before Monday night’s game was greeted with more than your typical polite applause.
This time, there was outright cheering coming from the stands, not to mention from players on the field.
“Usually,” Duhl said later, “there’s not so many cheers.”
But this was different.
Duhl made his first coaching appearance of the season Monday when host Salem tied Livonia Churchill, 0-0.
It was Duhl’s first game because he had been fired by school administrators after a parent complained about an inappropriate term he used while speaking with a freshman who was being assigned to the junior varsity team.
“It’s exciting, it’s a relief in a lot of ways,” Duhl said. “From the onset, I knew we had a really good team and I’m just looking forward to getting a chance to coach the girls and see what we can do because I think we have a lot of potential.”
Duhl was rehired after an outpouring of support from the players and their parents.
For their home opener last month, the players wore makeshift jerseys with Duhl’s name on the back as a show of support for their coach.
After schools administrators threatened to suspend the players and forfeit games if they played in the jerseys again, the players wore them in pre-game warm-ups.
There was no need to wear those jerseys Monday. The players had their coach back.
“He’s just a really good coach; he knows how to connect with us,” said senior defender Olivia Kaye. “Obviously, last year we improved greatly with him. There’s a good natural connection. He’s a really good coach. I think this is the best game we’ve played all season. It just helps having him on the sideline.”
Churchill coach Reid Friedrich has coached against Duhl for years and knows the Rocks will improve as the season progresses.
“I was real happy to see him back,” Friedrich said. “I texted him earlier and talked to him a little bit. Salem will be a better program with him in it.”
Salem looked like an improved team Monday in battling a good Churchill (5-2-1) team to a tie.
“I was really happy with the performance,” Duhl said. “In my opinion, we outplayed the team that’s at the top of the division on the other side. (Scoring) chances were pretty close, but I thought we did a better job with the ball. We’ve got to get better going to the goal.”
Duhl smirked when asked about Salem’s record.
“I would tell you that after today we’re 0-0-1,” he said. “Technically, we’re 3-5-2.”
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