By: Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
The No. 5 ranked Manchester Lady Dutch Soccer team’s season came to a close yesterday in a regional semi-final match-up. They fell to reigning state champion and developing rival, No. 2 ranked Lansing Christian Pilgrims, by a score of 7-0.
This loss marks the third consecutive year that the Lady Dutch have been eliminated by the Pilgrims in the playoffs. In 2016 (8-0) and 2017 (4-1) they were regional title games, but the draw this year place the Lady Dutch against the Pilgrims in the semi-final match.
After an earlier 5-1 loss at the Pilgrim Invitational on Apr. 28 the Lady Dutch returned junior midfielder/forward Emma Mrocko (injured in the 4/28 game) and sophomore defender Megan Reppert (missed the 4/28 matchup).
Manchester Lady Dutch head coach Travis Baker knew that his team would have to come out and “punch them in the face” in order to have a chance at an upset.
The Lady Dutch played behind the ball early, packing the defense in, and looked to counter-attack with their speed when they had the chance.
Baker didn’t want to change too much of his teams’ identity to do this, however.
“I thought the way to do it was dropping Emma back in (on defense),” said Baker. “Yes we lose a little bit of attacking, but we gain a bit on the ball in the back. Having Reppert back meant a little more physicality on (Lansing Christian’s Kasey) Jamieson. I thought we had a good game plan of trying to win it and play out and try and get our chances, which we knew would be few and far between. I didn’t want to change the game to be who we weren’t.”
From the first attack, the Pilgrims were looking to cross the ball into the box, although no major threats were posed, it was indicative of what was to come. Ten minutes and eight seconds in, Pilgrim senior forward and Division one bound Kasey Jamieson hit a volley off of a cross to give the Pilgrims a 1-0 lead.
Around the 25 minute mark, the Lady Dutch had their best chances. First, junior midfielder and captain Rayna Edwards shot a ball on a counter that made Pilgrim senior goalkeeper Lynn Cullens jump to deflect over the net.
Less than two minutes later, after a long ball forward, Edwards had another chance as Cullens came out to field the ball but mishandled it. Edwards got a shot off that hit a Pilgrim defender that had slid towards the net.
Jamieson would then complete her hat-trick not long after. First, she capitalized on a Lady Dutch turnover for her second goal, before being found in front of the net with her back to the goal before turning and finishing into a corner a few minutes after to give the Pilgrims a 3-0 lead.
They would take a 5-0 lead into halftime after a goal on a counter from junior forward Rilyn Ross and a penalty kick finished by junior defender Kealeigh Usiak.
Junior midfielder Natalie Bargardi had a nice shot five minutes into the second half, but Cullens was up to the task.
Ross added a second and senior midfielder Jenna Li capped off the scoring for the Pilgrims who will face Monroe St. Mary’s Catholic Central for the regional title on 6/9.
Despite the loss, Baker, in his first year as head coach of the women’s team, said that the gap between the two programs is closing.
“We talked all season about closing the gap,” said Baker. “This is the game we were building for, the result doesn’t necessarily reflect the game. I thought we played fairly well, to be honest, we just had a couple bounces not go our way. First half we had a couple chances we couldn’t get on the end of, some shots on goal we couldn’t get enough on to test the goalkeeper. I thought if we would have changed the game in those two chances we had it would’ve been a 2-1 game, which changes things. Luck just wasn’t on our side, the ball didn’t bounce our way.”
Finishing the season, 18-3 (13-0), while only losing three seniors with a formation change, Baker said that he expects to be better next year.
“I’m pretty confident in the girls we have and we can fill those roles and be on par if not better next year,” said Baker. “We’ll have a better understanding of the system. Stuff like that gives us the summer and winter to start building and we’ll be steps ahead of where we were at the start of this season. Overall, the season was great nothing for them to hang their head about.”