Haslett scored twice in the first half and absorbed an intense Mason onslaught in the second to advance to the semifinals of the CAAC Gold Cup with a 2-1 win Thursday night.
Caity Colonnese and Abby Schmidt’s goals led Haslett (9-1-1) to its third straight win over a league champion. The Vikings came into this game having beaten Holt and Grand Ledge, two of the three CAAC Blue co-champions, in their previous two.
Haslett coach Jack Vogel said the run has given his team a great deal of confidence.
“We think we can play with everyone,” Vogel said. “Maybe early in the season we doubted that a little bit. Now our kids know that on any given day, we can play and compete with the best.”
Haslett opened the scoring with 22:43 left in the first half, when Mason failed to clear a long free kick into the box. It fell to Colonnese about 25 yards out, and her first-time, right-footed blast found the upper corner.
Mason tied the game when Tara Gandhi lofted a perfect ball over the Viking defense. Kirsten Hunt deftly touched it past Haslett keeper MC Theis just inside the box and tapped it into the empty net with 14:45 left.
Schmidt gave Haslett the lead back six minutes later when Mason keeper Natalia Milashus couldn’t hold onto a cross from the left wing. The wet ball fell to Schmidt, who put it in from about eight yards out to make the score 2-1.
The Bulldogs (8-3-2) played with increased intensity in the second half, throwing players forward in a desperate search for a tying goal that never came.
“Actually, that was one of the best halves of soccer we’ve played,” Mason coach Christie Hursey said. “We talked a lot about not being first to the ball and not winning 50/50 balls, and I think we found some energy and rhythm that we didn’t have in the first half.”
Mason had a chance to tie the contest with about 15 minutes left when Brooke Beaune went down in the Haslett penalty area, but no penalty was given. The game finished with the ball again in the Haslett box, and the horn ended a mad scramble directly in front of the Viking goal.
“Our defenders are a special four, Shannon (Szedlak), Hannah (Beebe), Victoria (Surian) and Annie (Stolicker),” Vogel said. “I wouldn’t trade any of those for any four players on any other team. They did an outstanding job in the back weathering the storm.”
Two more league champions will stand in the way of the Vikings in their quest for the CAAC Gold Cup, and possible atonement for both of the blemishes on their season record. Haslett will face either White champ Williamston or Blue co-champ Holt in the semifinals, with Red champ DeWitt, which handed the Vikings their only loss, and Okemos, the other Blue co-champ, in the other semi. Haslett’s only tie was with Williamston.
Vogel said winning the CAAC Gold Cup is an important goal for his team.
“If we can progress through this, and we know that there are good teams in our way, that would be a great goal for us,” he said. “It’s a special thing for the kids.
“It will make an interesting postseason for us. And we’re really looking forward to it.”