Following Tuesday night’s remarkable comeback victory against North Muskegon, Kalamazoo Christian head coach Jay Allen knew that his Comets weren’t going to be able to sit back and relax Friday afternoon. For the second year in a row, Allen and his young Kalamazoo Christian squad squared off against defending state champs Lansing Christian, and their scoring phenom Kasey Jamieson, in the Division 4 State Soccer Final game. Friday’s rematch failed to provide a different outcome as the 2017 matchup, as the Pilgrims defeated the Comets, 1-0.
“They have an exceptional player in Kasey (Jamieson),” Allen said, “but they are strong across the board as well.”
The Comets started with a bang, when just 24 seconds into the game, Mikayla Tiesman bolted up the left side of the field and fired off a shot toward Lansing Christian goalkeeper Lynn Cullens. Kalamazoo maintained the pressure for the first few minutes of the game, but Lansing coach Joel VandeKopple wasn’t too worried.
“That first shot was the scariest moment of the tournament,” said VandeKopple, “but it woke us up. For our entire tournament run, the first ten minutes have been a feeling out process for our defense. Most of the girls back there haven’t played high level soccer and they don’t know how to read the formations. But then, around the ten minute mark, we get rolling and the defense figures it out.”
As the Lansing defense started to adjust, it helped the Pilgrims offense get going. The game started moving more toward the Comets’ defensive end. Despite an excellent job of marking Jamieson by sophomore Audrey Batts, the Liberty University bound scoring machine was able to fire off a shot with 14:46 left in the first half past the arms of Kalamazoo goalkeeper Jenna Blackwell.
“She (Jamieson) got loose there shortly after we started applying pressure,” said Allen, “Audrey did a great job on Kasey, we could’ve put three girls on her and she would’ve still scored that goal. Audrey came in with a job that players across Michigan have struggled with for the last four years and really did well.”
Jamieson scored nearly 200 goals in her career at Lansing Christian, and VandeKopple had nothing but praise for his All-State forward.
“She came in as a freshman, scored 50 goals,” said VandeKopple, “She came back as a sophomore, scored 50 goals. Again as a junior, 50 goals. She is the best player I’ve ever coached and I’m excited to see what she does at Liberty.”
While VandeKopple had reason to be proud of his senior, Kalamazoo Christian’s Jay Allen had even more to say about the only two seniors on his roster, Madelyn Batts and Carmen Katje.
“The leadership they brought was amazing,” beamed Allen, “You knew they were in charge and the team followed where they led. They aren’t the most vocal. We’re here today, in a big part, because of what they’ve done. I had them in those exact same positions four years ago as freshmen, and I told them ‘Get used to it, because you aren’t leaving those spots for four years.’”
But it wasn’t just the on the field actions that brought about praise from Allen for his dynamic duo.
“They are exceptional young ladies. I told them after the game that I hope my daughters turn out to be like them.”
The two seniors knew that the road to get back to the final game was going to be tough. Even after winning the regional last week, they knew the semifinal matchup against and undefeated and once-scored upon North Muskegon would prove difficult.
“We talked about it on the bus ride up,” said Batts, “we didn’t expect to be here today, but we were so glad that we made it. We wanted to work hard and do it again after last year’s run. We didn’t want to be here once for fun, we want the program to be here year after year.”
“I’m so happy we made it this far,” said Katje, “It’s tough right now, but we had a great season.”