Kalamazoo Christian achieved the rare feat Saturday of having two different teams competing on the same day for a state championship. Unfortunately for the Comet fans that made the trip to Michigan State, both the girls soccer and softball teams fell short against top-flight competition in both Division 4 finales.
Soccer dropped a 4-0 result to Royal Oak Shrine Catholic to start the action at 1 p.m. from DeMartin Stadium. Softball began at the adjacent Secchia Stadium roughly two hours later with Unionville-Sebewaing winning 3-1, snuffing out a late comeback bid on a triple play in the final inning.
The third-ranked Comets took runner-up honors in soccer for the third straight season as second-ranked Shrine made their championship debut in impressive fashion. The Knights took a 2-0 lead into halftime after a competitive first half. Purdue commit Chloe Woodbeck struck first on a 16th minute free kick, followed by a Lily Hotts goal in the 27th minute on a Jess Reaume cross.
Once ahead, Shrine was able to clamp down defensively and counter attack against a K-Christian squad that was forced to take more chances. Bridgette Drouillard scored in the 59th minute on a Hotts assist, followed by a 70th minute Regan Robinson goal assisted by Drouillard. Shrine would outshoot the Comets 16-9 in the second half.
Knight goalkeeper Allison LaPoint was officially credited with four saves in the shutout, although she made a number of other well positioned plays to deny Comet chances. Jenna Blackwell tallied four stops as well. Shrine finishes at 22-1-0.
K-Christian ends at 21-3-2 and graduates seniors Mikayla Tiesman, Grace VanPopering, Kayla Beebe, Emma Bertrand, Phoebe Will, Elise VanSparrentak, and Ally Roberts. That core group pushed the Comets to three straight title games and three consecutive 20-win campaigns.
It was the battle of two perennial contenders at the softball diamond with the Comets making their 12th championship appearance and Unionville-Sebewaing making their ninth. K-Christian’s most recent prior championship game saw a defeat to USA back in 2015. It was the Patriots first time back since their 2016 title.
All three USA runs came in a third inning that saw three hits and an error. KC’s Jayme Koning allowed five hits and three runs (one earned) over her four and 1/3 innings, followed by one hit and no runs against Zoe Hazelhoff in relief.
Patriot sophomore pitcher Brynn Polega was almost untouchable through her first five innings, getting 12 of 15 outs via strikeout and only scattering four baserunners. K-Christian got their lone run in the sixth inning after Megan Snook got a leadoff hit and Reagan Broekhuizen brought her in with a RBI single.
The Comets seemed to have a comeback brewing, as even when they’d still get out later in the game, they started to force longer at-bats versus Polega. In the seventh, Clare Dirksen legged out an infield single to open the inning. After her, Nyla de Jong had a bunt single as the ball initially rolled foul, then corkscrewed back fair at the last moment.
This brought up the potential go-ahead run in Sammy Gano, who was the only Comet to get on-base twice from her nine spot thanks to a single and walk.
Gano rocketed a line drive off the right arm of Polega that ricocheted directly to the shortstop Rylee Zimmer for the first out. Zimmer sprinted to second base for the second out, then fired to first to complete the triple play and secure the title.
Polega finished with 15 strikeouts over the complete game win as Unionville-Sebewaing finishes at 31-9 and claims the program’s sixth state crown. K-Christian finishes at 33-8 and the future remains bright, although their two seniors (Sydney Duong and Jayme Koning) will be tough to replace. They had four district titles and two regional crowns over their careers.