DeWitt scored two second-half goals 1:18 apart to book a spot in the CAAC Gold Cup final with a 2-0 win over Okemos on Tuesday.
With the win, the Panthers (11-4-4) will face Williamston for the title on Thursday. The Hornets edged Haslett 5-4 in penalty kicks after the teams tied were tied 1-1 in the other semifinal.
DeWitt coach Jamal Mubarakeh said that tournament history is on his side going into the Gold Cup Final.
“We always end up playing Okemos in the semifinal,” Mubarakeh said. “We lost to Okemos the last two years, and they won the Cup both times. We beat Okemos three years ago, and we won the Cup. If we can beat Okemos, we can get the job done.”
Mackenzie Dawes and Quinn Hanses scored the goals, both assisted by Danielle Stephan, in a game that could have been much different had Okemos been able to finish its chances in the first half.
“In the first half we should have been down, we got lucky,” Mubarakeh said. “We gave them way too much space and didn’t cover the way we’re supposed to.”
Kristelle Yewah had two agonizingly near misses in the first three minutes of play, sending an open far-post header of an Ashton Miller corner kick and a clean shot from 16 yards out over the crossbar.
Later in the half, Lydia Whitbeck sent in a cross from the left wing to Rachel Dersch at the far post, but her header also missed the mark, and the teams went to the break scoreless.
“We had a couple of really good chances in the first 10 or 15 minutes, but give DeWitt all the credit in the world,” Okemos coach Brian Guggemos said. “They’re deeper, they came out in the second half and really took it to us and it was really only a matter of time.”
DeWitt completely controlled the last 40 minutes, keeping Okemos (8-5-2) on its heels for virtually the entire second half.
Stephan sent Dawes in on a clean breakaway seven minutes into the second half, but Dawes could not get a clean shot off and poked the ball wide from about six yards out.
That play foreshadowed the first goal, another breakaway 20 minutes later, and this time Dawes made no mistake, coolly slotting it past a helpless Caroline Serkaian in the Okemos goal with 13:29 left.
Hanses put the game on ice with 12:11 left, also assisted by Stephan, to make their final score 2-0.
Mubarakeh said that his freshman attackers, Stephan and Dawes, are playing like experienced varsity players.
“Okemos is strong, but look at the freshmen and their mentality,” he said. “They kept their cool and composure, they were patient and they play the way we want. I see them improving day by day, game by game, practice by practice, and they get it right now.”