First-year Canton girls soccer head coach George Easter made several brilliant moves during Friday night’s Division 1 district final against Salem.
But it was a move Easter didn’t make that sparked the Chiefs to a decisive 3-0 victory over their Plymouth-Canton Educational Park rival.
Canton senior Tara Dunn lasered a corner kick into the top left corner of the net with 12:01 left in the first half, breaking a scoreless duel.
“The funny thing is, I was just about to sub Tara out, but when I saw it was a corner, I said, ‘Nope!’,” Easter recounted, smiling. “Tara is one of our best corner kickers, so there was no way I was going to take her out before she took it.”
Easter was drenched by an ice-water soaking seconds after the game, courtesy of his elated team.
“After today, it felt good,” Easter said, laughing. “Earlier in the week I thought for a second that if we won, would they do something like that? But in the moment, I forgot all about it and they got me.”
Canton doubled its lead to 2-0 eight minutes before halftime when Kahlen Detrick arched a shot from 35 yards out over Salem goal-keeper Morganne Jones and into the back of the unoccupied net.
The game’s final goal was a beauty: a left-footed bender delivered by Chief senior Carli Ukrainec that eluded the outstretched hands of Jones with 24:05 left.
“That third goal was huge,” Easter said. “Although it didn’t seal the deal, it boosted our confidence.”
The decision completed a 3-0 sweep for the Chiefs against the Rocks this spring — extra sweet considering Salem edged Canton 3-2 in overtime in the 2022 district final.
“This feels surreal, to be honest,” Dunn said. “Last year was kind of a downer for us, but everything has come together for us this season.
“Every game we play against Salem is high intensity, so winning is the best feeling ever.”
Asked about her ice-breaking goal, Dunn said, “Somehow I snuck it in there.”
“After I saw the ball go in the net, I was like, ‘Let’s go!’,” she added.
Even though the game was played in high-80s temperatures — and members of both teams attended the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park prom the night before — the action was crisp and fast-paced.
Salem’s keeper kept it close
Jones was spectacular at times in goal for the Rocks. With 80 seconds remaining in the first half, she elevated high to snag a hard shot delivered by Dunn.
With 31 minutes to play, Jones made a pair of bang-bang saves — one by diving to her left to divert a point-blank Chief shot.
Seconds later, she somehow managed to squeeze a shot from the doorstep.
The Rocks manufactured few scoring threats, thanks in part to the Chiefs executing the game plan Easter and his assistant coaches drew up.
“We knew how to beat them going into the game because we’d already beat them twice this season (both 2-1 decision),” Easter said. “But I told the girls, hey, its hard to beat a team three times in one season, especially at the Park.
Executing the game plan
“We went in and watched some footage of the previous games we played them and we figured out what worked well. The rest was just urging everybody to give 100% — play with high intensity — for the entire game.”
Canton will battle Dearborn Heights Crestwood in Tuesday’s 5 p.m. regional semifinal at Woodhaven High School.
The Chargers upended Dearborn, 2-1, in overtime Friday night.
“Going into tonight, we knew we had to keep our spirits up, stay together and work together and just go for it,” Dunn concluded.
“Because none of us wanted this to be our last game of the season and us seniors didn’t want our high school careers to end tonight.