Lansing Christian gave unbeaten and top-ranked Clarkston Everest/Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes all it could handle, but the Pilgrims ended their girls soccer season in the Division 4 semifinals with a 3-2 loss Wednesday at Troy Athens.
Isabel Bustamante and Emily Voss scored for the Pilgrims, who finished the season with a record of 13-4-3, after starting it 0-3-1 and scoring just once in those first four games.
“If you’d have told me at that point that we were going to finish up in the state semifinals, I would have laughed at you,” Lansing Christian coach Joel Vande Kopple said. “But in the last half of the season we just did everything well together, and we played some good soccer.”
Just as they had in their regional final win over Saginaw Nouvel, the Pilgrims found themselves trailing early. Anna Robb scored one goal and assisted on the other to give the Lakers a 2-0 lead with 16:23 left in the first half.
“We started off really slow again, like we did on Friday,” Vande Kopple said. “We weren’t playing our game, a lot of desperation kicking and not finding feet.”
Bustamante pulled one back late in the first half, however, taking a perfect through pass from Elizabeth Perkins and burying it with a first-time strike to make the score 2-1 with 3:40 left in the half.
Lansing Christian rode the wave of momentum into the second half, and Perkins nearly tied it up five minutes after the break, beating Lakers keeper Megan Luttinen to a long free kick by Maddie Pauley but heading it inches wide of the open net.
Perkins got her head on another long free kick by Pauley 10 minutes later, but headed it over the bar.
“In the second half, we started like we did on Friday again,” Vande Kople said. “We were passing the ball around and getting some good opportunities.”
Shelby Mann gave the Lakers what turned out to be the winning goal, a long-distance strike off of a corner kick that made the score 3-1 with 15:14 left on the clock.
Voss made things interesting late, finishing a breakaway with 5:04 left, but that would be as close as the Pilgrims would get.
Lakers coach Katie Hearn said that some of her players remembered the Pilgrims from their meeting in the girls basketball regional finals this past winter. Lansing Christian lost that one, 40-26.
“I could hear them talking about that, so I think for those girls who played then, it did help motivate them,” Hearn said.
The win by Everest/Our Lady (20-0-0) sets up a rematch of last year’s Division 4 state final, with Grandville Calvin Christian, which won the other semifinal, 1-0, over Kalamazoo Christian. Calvin Christian won that 2012 final 6-0, which was the Lakers’ only loss in the past two seasons.
Vande Kopple said that, while he will be losing some talented seniors, including Perkins, his program is in good shape looking ahead.
“We’ve got a pretty good little thing going,” he said. “We have a lot of girls in our middle school who are paying high-level travel soccer, and that always makes a high school coach’s job a whole lot easier. We have a lot of skill and a lot of talent coming back.
“We’re planning on giving it our all again next year and see what happens.”