Gull Lake and Kalamazoo Christian took to the pitch Friday evening with a regional soccer championship on the line. The Blue Devils lost their Division 2 duel to Marshall by a 2-1 final after the penalty kick shootout. Meanwhile, the Comets rolled to their third straight Division 4 regional crown with a 6-0 win over Black River.
(At Spring Arbor University)
Marshall 2, Gull Lake 1 (PK 6-5)
It was a rematch of last year’s regional final that saw a 1-0 Gull Lake win and also a rematch from the 2016 regional that saw a 2-1 Blue Devil win after PKs. The 2019 edition was roughly even statistically through the first 40 minutes of play. In the second half, Gull Lake dominated the chances and outshot the Redhawks 11-2, but seven saves from Marshall’s Maddie Reynolds helped force overtime.
“We possessed, we contained, we played hard-nosed defense,” said Gull Lake coach Jeff Corstange. “Just couldn’t find the back of the net. Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t.”
It wasn’t until the second overtime in the 94th minute that either team was able to score. Marshall was fouled right at midfield and Olivia Zulewski quickly rocketed the free kick to a charging Kate Face, who re-directed it in from the box.
“On that goal, Olivia got there, saw Kate, and took the free kick early,” said Redhawks coach Hans Morgan. “The defense wasn’t set, Kate snuck in behind and sold out to get her head on it.”
However, Gull Lake would get the equalizer just over two minutes later. After a Reagan Wisser shot rattled off the post, Mackenzie Ford was able to boot it back into the box. Wisser cashed in on her second try to even the contest at 1-1 and ultimately force penalty kicks. Reynolds finished unofficially with 12 saves for Marshall and GL’s Gabby Bennecke turned away three.
Both teams selected five strikers for the shootout with the Blue Devils using both Reagan and Rosie Wisser, Lily Stricker, Vanessa Scheel, and even the goalkeeper Bennecke. The Redhawks chose Katie Foster, Kate Face, Chloe Leugers, Olivia Zulewski, and Danielle DeVine. In both cases, all five shooters scored, pushing the match to sudden death.
Only one more round would be required. On Julia Mellinger’s try for Gull Lake, Marshall’s Reynolds was able to make the diving stop.
“She looked the opposite way of where she was going, so I just went to the left,” said Reynolds. “It just was a guessing game.”
“She’s got so much intestinal fortitude,” Morgan said of Reynolds, who overcame a battle with cancer in 2017. “Absolutely top drawer today, she couldn’t have played any better today. She was awesome.”
Lauren Terry would score on the ensuing try to end the shootout at 6-5 and give Marshall their first ever state semifinal berth, putting them at 20-2 on the season. The Redhawks face 2018 state finalist Forest Hills Northern at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Portage Northern.
Gull Lake’s season ends with a 17-3-1 record and sees the graduation of seniors Makenzie Wank, Avery Cook, Reagan Wisser, Morgan Hopkins, Julia Mellinger, Lindsay Buckhout, and Maddie Rossen. That group helped push the Blue Devils to a state semifinal berth last year, along with this season’s success.
“It’s hard work, it’s dedication, that’s what it’s all about,” said Corstange. “They’ve put themselves through a lot for me in the last four years that I’ve had a lot of these girls. But it’s something that the younger girls learn from as well with all of the hard work and dedication you have to put in in the offseason.”
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(At Portage Northern)
Kalamazoo Christian 6, Black River 0
It was the Comets and Rats meeting in the regional final for the fourth time in five years and like the prior times, K-Christian came out on top. The Comets took a 3-0 lead into halftime with the first strike from Kayla Beebe. Emma Bertand tallied the second goal, then Beebe assisted Phoebe Will for the third score.
In the second half, Bertrand used a header for her second of the night with the helper from Elise VanSparrentak. Karina Deering had the fifth goal with the assist by Kaylee Klassen, then Deering added the final tally alone. K-Christian also notched their 16th shutout of the season, improving to 20-2-2. Black River closes at 9-12-1.
Third-ranked Kalamazoo Christian has a showdown ahead Wednesday against top-ranked North Muskegon, who they beat 2-1 in PKs for last year’s semifinal. The rematch is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Comstock Park and can be heard live via JoeInsider.com.