COMSTOCK PARK – With a pair of heartfelt, state-championship defeats in the not-so-distant past for the Williamston boys soccer team, coach Brent Sorg and his squad marched into Comstock Park High School Saturday looking to put an end to their misfortunes.
Instead, there was more heartache.
The Hornets fell to Grand Rapids South Christian, 1-0, in penalty kicks (5-3) in the Division 3 state title game despite outshooting the Sailors, 24-5.
“We couldn’t find the back of the net, unfortunately,” Sorg said. “That’s how we’ve played all year. We’ve kept the ball very well, we pressed and put the other team under pressure.
“It just didn’t work out today.”
Williamston has now dropped all three of its state championship appearances in the past four years, with each game resulting in a 1-0 defeat.
“Losing this game, it stinks,” said Sorg, whose team lost to the Sailors in the title game in 2012. “There’s no doubt about it. It hurts.”
The star of the night was South Christian keeper Carter Selvius. The senior kept his team’s title chances alive by recording 14 saves by the time the second half of extra time came to a close. Then in the shootout, with his team holding a 2-1 lead, Selvius made the match-clinching stop on an attempt from Williamston’s Austin Brown.
The No. 3-ranked Hornets (19-6) nearly grabbed their first state title in school history a handful of times throughout regulation. Late in the first half, senior Brian Ganton intercepted an errant pass by the Sailors’ backline, but his one-on-one with Selvius ended in a save from the keeper.
Ganton sailed a few shots over the crossbar and his header midway through the second half was sent just wide of the goal. And with all his team’s missed opportunities, the forward could feel the frustration setting in late in the game.
“After I started putting up shots, and they weren’t falling for me, I started to get discouraged,” Ganton said. “I know you’re supposed to keep a short memory, but I think it lingered with me as time went on in the game.”
Brown almost put Williamston ahead in extra time when his backheel attempt in front of the No. 3-ranked Sailors’ (20-3-3) goal was deflected out of bounds by Selvius. Toward the end of the final half of extra time, Brown had a one-on-one opportunity with the South Christian keeper, thanks to a pass from Zach Griffin, but he once again rejected the Hornets’ attempt.
“It was frustrating, but we kept working – doing what we do,” Brown, a senior, said. “But they just came out with it.
“It happens. They were good, too.”
Griffin, Josh Ward and Jacob Chisholm scored for the Hornets in the penalty shootout.
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.