By: Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dexter Dreadnaught girls soccer team, 13-2-4, fell to the Pinckney Pirates, 15-2-2, on May 20 by a final score of 2-1 as the Pirates claimed the SEC White title with the win.
After these two teams tied 2-2 on Apr. 23 there weren’t many adjustments. Both teams had strong back lines led by their central defenders and offensively, both teams had a speedster up top that they looked to utilize.
Formation wise, Pirate head coach Tom Greeley said they played a more ‘North American’ 4-2-3-1 formation this time around, dropping two midfielders low with an attacking midfielder up top.
The Dreadnaughts struck first but the Pirates had an answer and down the
Dreadnaught goalkeeper Kaila Simpson kept the Dreadnaughts in the game early as the Pirates came out aggressive early and remained that way throughout the night.
Less than five minutes in, Simpson had a
The Pirates pressed up the field and kept tight to the Dreadnaughts when they held possession in their defensive third, always looking to close passing lanes quickly.
“I know how skilled our team is,” said Greeley. “I know how athletic (they are) and the energy they have. For me it was great that from the beginning whistle they went forward with the mentality, ‘we’re going to win this game’ and they never let off the gas pedal.”
It was over ten minutes until the Dreadnaught offense began to link some passes together moving upfield. With 29:30 in the first half, freshman Briana Rodriguez got one of the first good looks for the Dreadnaughts, rebounding a shot and taking one of her own that was saved by Stevens.
During the first half both sides were able to get service into the box from the wings but neither side had anyone able to get on the receiving end of those searching balls in the box.
The Pirate defense held a high offsides trap all night to neutralize the speed of the Dreadnaught offense. The Dreadnaughts, realizing they were playing too direct early, dropped sophomore forward Carley Curry into the midfield to try and free up more space.
Cassie Bonifas, a senior defender and Michigan Tech commit, wisely dropped off whenever the trap wasn’t applied, preventing any balls behind the defense.
One of the best looks for the Dreadnaughts came at the 14:20 mark in the first half. The Dreadnaughts had a corner played into the box, junior center back Kylie Cabana got a foot on it at the back post, but it went over the crossbar.
A few minutes later the Pirates had their best look, sophomore Abby Colvia got a steal on the Dreadnaught back line, took on the defender in the box and beat her, but shot over the net as well.
During the break, Lewis said the focus was to have their forward check to space.
“For us it was about getting possession and using the space (Bonifas) gave us (when she dropped off) which worked pretty well,” said Lewis. “We got chances. They were a little more dangerous going forward. A different philosophy. They definitely came out to attack the second half. We were trying to win as well, instead of going more defensive we decided to play with them.”
For the Pirates, it was just reestablishing what they talked about coming into the game. High pressure and intensity.
“The thing was ‘you know they’re going to come at you hard,’” said Greeley on his message to the team. “’you have to come out harder’, and they did.”
The second half started out similar to how the first half did, the Pirates winning the possession battle and applying high pressure.
Around the 28:00-mark, Curry played a great ball forward to senior McKenna Graham. She beat three defenders before Bonifas got a last second touch on the ball with a slide to save a potential goal.
Bonifas took a corner with 18:45 left and found freshman Mallory Farmer in the box for a Pirate scoring chance. Farmer made contact, but Simpson was up to the task once again.
The Dreadnaughts would score first with 14:19 left in the game.
After a free kick that wasn’t cleared properly, Dreadnaught sophomore Anna Scaling found Graham at the back post who got her head on the ball to beat Stevens low to the corner for the 1-0 lead.
“We needed it,” said Lewis on the goal. “We were out of sorts.”
“We knew we could get one,” said Pirate sophomore Solana Kelly after the Dreadnaught goal. “We knew we were going to get one. We had so many opportunities, we knew we could do it.”
1:14 seconds later, the Pirates responded. Colvia chased down the ball near the right side of box, beat her defender cut in, and shot a low bouncing ball that nestled into the close corner to tie the game, 1-1.
“We got it and when we got it it’s like ‘okay back to zero-zero, a tie isn’t going to cut it we have to keep going,’” said Kelly.
At the 8:03 mark, the Dreadnaughts thought they had a goal, a ball played forward to Brodersen who was one on one with Stevens. She neatly played the ball around Stevens and had nobody in between her and the goal but the flag was already up on the initial pass for offsides.
Then, with 3:50 left, the Pirates struck again.
After a Dreadnaught turnover and a quick shot, the ball was on the turf. Pirate sophomore Solana Kelly ran into the box and poked it past Simpson, who was on the ground trying to corral the ball, to put the Pirates up 2-1.
“I started going (for the ball) and I thought ‘I can’t stop now, I have to follow it,’” said Kelly. “(Simpson) started reaching back for it and I thought ‘I have to get a touch on it.’ And I poked it right past her.”
“The first thing was like, absolute joy,” said Greeley when asked about his emotions seeing the ball cross the line. “The second thing was, ‘okay, now we need to get right back behind the ball, stay compact, don’t let them out of their end, clear your lines, just manage the game,’”
The Dreadnaughts had two great looks over the last two minutes, but Stevens clutched up for the Pirates.
Stevens told The Sun Times she was still disappointed she let in the first header, but that she gathered herself and told herself to keep going. Stevens identified diving as something that she’s been practicing recently; having a player sit next to her in practice while she dives over them (without touching them) to cover the goal.
“When I saw the ball coming in, I knew I could get my hand on it because that’s what I’ve been really working on,” said Stevens. “I didn’t necessarily know if I could catch it but a hand on it is better than nothing, so I just went for it.”
Then, with less than 10 seconds to go, Stevens had a one on one with Brodersen, which she swallowed up to secure the first league title in program history.
“I saw her coming at me,” said Stevens on the last sequence. “I saw my defender trying to push her outside, but she was angled in towards the center of the goal. I knew she was going to go to my right because the way she was angled. I watched her feet and as she broke down her steps, I could tell she wasn’t going to shoot it she was just going to try and pass it in and get it by me. It almost became instinct in the last couple seconds, I just collapsed and dove on it.”
“This is awesome,” said Kelly when asked about what she felt when the buzzer sounded. “We’re making history. I’m still like ‘wow this is amazing,’ I don’t even know how to explain it. I’m so proud of our team and everything we have done.”
“Overwhelming joy,” added Stevens on her emotions after the win. “(Being) a senior, just being able to see the progression of the team the four years I’ve been here, we were at the bottom of the KLAA when I came in and see us being able to rise to the top, even though we switched leagues were playing really competitive teams. Being able to just travel with the team and see the progression, having had this happen in my senior is absolutely amazing. I couldn’t be happier; my adrenaline is still going.”
Next for the Dreadnaughts is district play. They travel to Tecumseh on May. 23.
“I told Kaila to keep her head up she had a great game,” said Lewis after the game. “Their second goal she had her hand on the ball, we’ll get it on film, but tough call. Annika had a great chance at the end of the game. I was just telling the kids to keep their heads up.”
“It feels like all the ghost of girls’ soccer pasts have been put to sleep,” said Greeley on winning the first league title in program history. “That’s the message I gave the girls, ‘Okay look you’re not just playing it for you. You’re playing for your teammates, your school, your community, but I want you to think about every girl who ever put on a Pinckney soccer shirt who in their years never had the opportunity to do what you’re doing today. You’re playing for them; you’re playing for history.’”