Portage Central kicked off the SMAC soccer slate Tuesday with a 1-0 win in their home debut against Stevensville Lakeshore. The evening felt more like October with upper 50s temperatures and heavy rain in the second half, but both teams were happy to have live competition after weeks of delays and uncertainty.
Neither team had a decisive advantage in the first half with roughly even possession and opportunities. The Mustangs reversed that trend in the second half, controlling possession firmly most of the way and keeping the Lancers from getting a shot for more than 20 minutes. Freshman Brycen Handley tallied the lone goal in the 50th minute with help from junior Mason Bell.
After a dry start, both teams had to contend with rainfall for the final 20 minutes. Lakeshore did better gaining possession down the stretch, but Portage Central’s defense still limited quality chances. Goalkeeper Nolan Szafranski unofficially had two saves in his home debut for PC with Noah Dietrich making six stops for the Lancers.
Lakeshore opens at 0-1 and gets thrown back into the fire Thursday as their home opener is against defending league champion Gull Lake. They host last place Battle Creek Central next Tuesday.
Portage Central starts league play 1-0 and moves to 2-1 overall, as the Mustangs played two tournament games up north in August. PC also has a tough challenge next with a trip Thursday to Mattawan, fresh off a 5-0 beatdown of Portage Northern in the Wildcats’ league opener. The Mustangs head to Kalamazoo Central next Tuesday, then are back home a week from Thursday versus Gull Lake.