ANN ARBOR – Chris Morgan had a tough decision to make at the end of the regular season.
The Ann Arbor Skyline girls soccer coach had to choose between two freshmen goalies as the Eagles set their sights on a deep postseason run.
In the end, Morgan went with 5-foot-8, Sofia Nehro, who came up big Thursday to help the Eagles defeat Canton, 2-0, to clinch their first-ever regional title and advance to the Division 1 state semifinals.
“The ceiling was pretty high for her, but she’s surpassed anything that we had anticipated,” Morgan said of Nehro, who took Canton’s best punch all evening.
Canton threw everything they could at Nehro in the final five minutes of the game with Skyline clinging to a 1-0 lead thanks to a score from freshman Emmy Chung in the first half.
The Chiefs pressured the young goalkeeper, but Nehro responded with countless saves, which allowed the Eagles to add a goal from Brianna Ferguson with 90 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
“She showed a lot of poise,” Morgan said of Nehro. “That was a huge growing curve. The maturity that she’s shown over the last two weeks has been phenomenal.”
Not all freshmen can handle the pressure of an intense environment like Thursday night’s game, but Nehro depended on her teammates and coaching staff for help and made the plays necessary for the Eagles to advance.
“Just keeping a good mindset, talking to my coaches, making sure I’m doing it for the girls and for myself,” Nehro said. “And just really relying on what I know keeps me calm and keeps me composed.”
Skyline junior Sophia Morgan said having Nehro as the last line of defense has been the difference for the Eagles this postseason.
“Having a strong rock in the back has literally been a lifesaver,” Sophia Morgan said. “You don’t realize that until you don’t have a goalie, but she has been amazing.”
The Eagles improved to 18-2-1 and picked up their ninth shutout of the season. None felt quite as good as this one to senior Tai Tworek.
“It’s definitely a morale booster,” Tworek said. “We’re having the results and that proves our hard work.”
Skyline’s girls team will now have the chance to do what the boys program has done twice in 2013 and 2018.
Before they can play for the state title, however, the Eagles will have to take on Troy Athens in the semifinals at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Troy High School.
“We know it’s going to be tough,” said Skyline senior Charlotte Steglitz. “We’ve put our hearts out on the field and whatever we can do to win, we’ll do it.”
Chris Morgan knows what it takes to win a state title as he was the coach for the two boys championships and said he’s hopeful the girls squad can add to that legacy.
“To make it to the state semis, it’s taken a little bit longer than we had hoped,” he said. “But we’re there. There are more trophies and there’s more hardware to earn, so I think they’re still hungry.”