By: Seth Kinker, email@example.com
The no. 10 ranked Dexter Dreadnaught girls soccer team (16-3-4) season came to an end in a regional semifinal against the no. 9 ranked Marshall Redhawks (19-2) at Spring Arbor University.
Last season, the Redhawks bounced the Dreadnaughts from the postseason on a late second half goal. On Jun. 4, the Redhawks scored on a first half free kick and held on for the 1-0 win once again.
One change to start for the Dreadnaughts included putting leading goal scorer and sophomore defender turned forward Carley Curry back onto the defensive line as sophomore center back Faith Renaud, who left the Dreadnaughts district title game with a lower leg injury and did not return, played center forward.
“(Redhawks senior forward Kate) Face is a lot to handle at forward, dynamic, hard to track,” said Dreadnaught head coach Jamie Lewis. “I thought Curry, who’s played forward all year, sliding into center back because of Faith’s injury was amazing.”
In the first three minutes the Redhawks had a chance, a deep free kick from 30 yards out. It hit the cross bar and Dreadnaught junior goalkeeper Kaila Simpson hit it over to force a Redhawks corner that the Dreadnaught defense handled.
It took the first five or so minutes for the Dreadnaught offense to string any passes together. They were connecting passes in the middle third of the field but couldn’t get any opportunities in the offensive third.
Ten minutes in, Lewis shifted his formation after analyzing play.
“It was more of a position change,” said Lewis. “With how we were playing, I thought there was some space out wide we could use. We weren’t using the width we wanted to. We had ten-minute stretches where we were really good. When we got a little panicked, we didn’t do as well.”
A few minutes after that the Dreadnaughts had their first quality look of the game, a low cross into the box after a nice build up on the left-hand side of the field. Junior midfielder Molly McCormick played the low ball across but no one was home to finish it as the Redhawk keeper scooped it up.
Then, Dreadnaught sophomore Abby Tamer responded with a deep ball to junior forward Skylar VanStrien who ran onto the ball in the box but also took out the goalkeeper.
With 15:24, the Dreadnaughts gave up a free kick from well over 35 yards out. Redhawk junior midfielder Olivia Zulewski hit a perfect ball that tucked just under the cross bar before Simpson could get a hand on it for the only goal of the game.
The Dreadnaughts got a couple balls in the box over the last fifteen minutes but didn’t have many quality shots although they had better possession. The Redhawks were one of the few teams to be able to match the speed of the Dreadnaught midfield and forwards.
At halftime, Lewis said they added another forward to utilize the width of the field more but they could never get the service needed in the second half.
In the early stages of the second half the Dreadnaught offense showed more life than they had in all of the first half. Their midfield was able to get forward and provide more service.
Ten minutes in, a nice buildup of passes led to a low driven shot for Tamer near the 18-yard box. A couple minutes after that, senior Annika Brodersen got a cross that was deflected in, but it was called back because the ball was over the end line before the cross.
“The formation change, and a little, just a reminder to play quicker in the middle,” said Lewis on the early second half success. “In the first half we took too many touches and lost it. Get the ball quick, move it, and switch the field. When we do that, we’re pretty good.”
Curry and junior center back Kylie Cabana addressed deep runs all night as sophomores Mia Stewart and Ana Scaling battled well on the wings in a physical contest.
With 23:20 remaining the Dreadnaughts had one of their better chances, a chip from in the box from senior midfielder McKenna Graham that hit the cross bar and came back into play before the Redhawks cleared it.
Under the twenty-minute mark with the score still 1-0, the Dreadnaughts began trying whatever they could to get a spark on offense. They shifted Curry back forward, they put Tamer in a forward position after her early first half success, they even put Cabana in an attacking midfielder spot. But the Redhawk defense was up to task every time.
The two best chances for the Dreadnaughts came with 16 minutes, Brodersen getting to a played ball that forced the Redhawk goalkeeper to come out when it was one on one, and the second came with around ten minutes left. A corner taken by Curry placed the ball right at the six-yard box, but the keeper came out to make the save.
The Dreadnaughts ended the season 16-3-4, graduating only three true seniors (Brodersen was a foreign exchange student from Norway), and earned their fourth consecutive district title.
“(Begin the) grind for next year,” said Lewis after the game while acknowledging his four seniors and their contributions to the program; Graham, Lany Curry, Brodersen, and Briana Pederson. “Next year we want to pick up where we left off. We started off rough this year. Hopefully the captains have a good offseason program and they grind to get us to where we want to be. We return almost everyone so we’ll see.