Mason soccer blanks Chelsea for district crown

Mason soccer blanks Chelsea for district crown

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Mason soccer blanks Chelsea for district crown

Mason junior Lirim Shefkiu gains control of the ball during Saturday's Division 2 district final against Chelsea.

Mason junior Lirim Shefkiu gains control of the ball during Saturday’s Division 2 district final against Chelsea.

CHELSEA – John Kingman and the Mason boys soccer team spent a majority of the season trying to live up to the high standards of being ranked nationally and atop the Division 2 state poll.

That pressure vanished during a stretch that included losses to Okemos and DeWitt and that’s proven to be a blessing in disguise for Mason.

Kingman and his teammates are now playing relaxed, and that’s helped Division 2 No. 8-ranked Mason during its chase for a state championship, which will continue thanks to a 3-0 victory over host Chelsea in a district final Saturday.

“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves so it was all in our own head,” Kingman said. “(Those losses) kind of lifted everything off of us and we realized we can lose and that we can play bad. It really was a great thing because it allowed us to really take a step back and realize that we have to work hard for what we want, and if we don’t do that we can lose.”

Mason put together a strong week of soccer capped by Saturday’s performance to capture its fourth district title in five years and advance to the regional that it will host starting Wednesday. Mason outscored its three opponents in the district – Fowlerville, South Lyon East and Chelsea – 13-0.

“Since that (tough) week was over I haven’t seen us play a lot of bad soccer,” Mason coach Nick Binder said. “We’ve played a lot of really solid and good soccer all the way through these games regardless of the score and it’s nice to be peaking at this point in the year.”

Kingman had a goal and an assist off free kicks Saturday and Leutrim Shefkiu and Christian Jordan also scored during Mason’s district championship win.

Kingman and Shefkiu scored less than eight minutes apart during an opening half where Mason controlled the play. Jordan scored off a free kick from Kingman with 4:37 remaining as Mason put the finishing touches on a victory that allows it to play at least one more home game.

“It’s starting to settle in that every game could be my last game now, so being able to play in front of the home crowd is a huge thing,” Kingman said. “Being in regionals is another huge thing, and just putting those two things together makes it all so surreal. It’s a great feeling being able to play in front of your home crowd in such big games.”

Division 1 at Portage Central: A first-half goal proved to be the difference as Okemos suffered a 1-0 loss to Portage Northern in a district final.

Division 3 at Brooklyn Columbia Central: Leslie captured a district crown by beating Onsted in a shootout. The 2-1 victory sends the Blackhawks into regionals where they will face host Flint Powers at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Contact Brian Calloway at bcalloway@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.

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