For the third consecutive season, Kalamazoo Christian will play in the MHSAA Division 4 girls soccer state championship. For the second straight year, the Comets edged North Muskegon in the semifinal to advance. Third-ranked K-Christian pulled out a 1-0 win against the top-ranked Norse, getting the lone tally with four seconds remaining in the first half.
The first 39:30 of play was roughly even with both teams recording three shots on goal. It was the final 30 seconds of the first half that proved crucial, starting with a takeaway by Kayla Beebe that led to a corner kick. The ball went out with about 20 seconds left and junior Sarah Miller had to scramble to get the corner away before the buzzer.
“I was thinking about just getting down there fast enough and setting it in the right spot without making it go out,” said Miller.
The corner kick left Miller’s foot with around eight seconds remaining and soared toward the far post of the goal, where a waiting Emma Bertrand rocketed the ball into the net with her head.
“20 seconds left, I was yelling ‘Sarah Miller, just put the ball in!’ said Bertrand. “She had a perfect cross and I found it with my head and buried it in the back of the net. (Miller) is so consistent, she has the best ball placement on the team, 100 percent.”
Listen back to the broadcast call of the goal below:
“Our corner play is our bread-and-butter,” said K-Christian head coach Jay Allen. “That’s Sarah Miller, she’s been doing it now for three years and for three years we’ve been deadly on corners.”
North Muskegon came out firing with three quick shots-on-goal in the second half, but the Comets were able to turn them away. They would allow only one further shot-on-goal for the remaining 30 minutes, as the K-Christian defense clamped down for their 17th shutout of the season. The Norse very nearly got a breakaway try in the final minute of the game, but a handball call nullified the opportunity.
“With Stonewall (defender Elise VanSparrentak) in the back there, we held them off,” said Allen. “Elise has been the backbone of this defense since her freshman year, nothing gets by her. And then (goalkeeper) Jenna (Blackwell) had that beautiful save to keep us in the game early in the second half.
“We played as a team, it was 11 individuals on the field playing together as one unit,” added Allen.
Blackwell unofficially had five saves in the victory. North Muskegon sophomore Syann Fairfield turned away eight as her team finishes at 20-3. It was their third-ever semifinal berth, as they also lost to the Comets in 2018 and 2007.
Kalamazoo Christian improves to 21-2-2 and moves to Saturday’s state championship game at 1 p.m. from Michigan State University. Unlike the prior two seasons, it’s not Lansing Christian awaiting on the other side, as they were knocked out by second-ranked Shrine Catholic last week. Shrine rolled Nouvel Catholic 6-0 in their adjacent semifinal to advance to the final.
“(Shrine) are equally as good as (North Muskegon). We knew coming in (to the semifinal) we had to play the best game of the season,” noted Allen.
Listen back to the semifinal broadcast here. You can listen live to the Saturday championship as well via JoeInsider.com with a 1 p.m. ET kickoff from MSU.