Lansing Catholic advances to D3 regional championship game

Lansing Catholic advances to D3 regional championship game

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Lansing Catholic advances to D3 regional championship game

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WILLIAMSTON – In 2010, Lansing Catholic boys soccer coach Gus Flores took over a program that possessed everything a first-year coach could ask for. It was a senior-laden group that, as a collective, scrapped and clawed their way to the Division 3 state championship game.

Mattjew Benivegna ,right, Lansing Catholic goalie slides to block a shot on goal by Brenden Cupchak ,13, of Gabriel Richard late in the 1st half of their Division 3 regional quarterfinal game Tuesday October 25, 2016 in Williamston. The ball would pop oer Benivegna and give Juan Sancho of Gabriel Richard a wide open net but the ball would miss wide right. KEVIN W. FOWLER PHOTO

Mattjew Benivegna ,right, Lansing Catholic goalie slides to block a shot on goal by Brenden Cupchak ,13, of Gabriel Richard late in the 1st half of their Division 3 regional quarterfinal game Tuesday October 25, 2016 in Williamston. The ball would pop oer Benivegna and give Juan Sancho of Gabriel Richard a wide open net but the ball would miss wide right. KEVIN W. FOWLER PHOTO

Seven seasons later, Flores is coaching another veteran cast that, too, has some fight in them, and he’s hoping the intangibles can help his program get another crack at a state title.

So far, so good.

The Cougars will advance to a Division 3 regional championship game after defeating No. 9-ranked Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard, 2-0, Tuesday night in the regional semifinals at Williamston High School.

Lansing Catholic goalie Matthew Benivegna ,right, grabs the ball after a Gabriel Richard corner kick came close to scoring late in the 2nd half of their Division 3 regional quarterfinal game Tuesday October 25, 2016 in Williamston. KEVIN W. FOWLER PHOTO

Lansing Catholic goalie Matthew Benivegna ,right, grabs the ball after a Gabriel Richard corner kick came close to scoring late in the 2nd half of their Division 3 regional quarterfinal game Tuesday October 25, 2016 in Williamston. KEVIN W. FOWLER PHOTO

“This group is the same as (2010),” Flores said. “We have seniors that have four years of experience, desire, hard work. ….I don’t like to say it, but there are similarities.

“Two weeks ago, we said this was the start of the season, and we wanted to make sure that when we stepped on the field that we gave everything that we have. The boys just continue to work hard.”

The victory handed No. 13-ranked Lansing Catholic its second top-10 win of the postseason, as the Cougars defeated No. 5-ranked Williamston in the district opener last week.

Senior forward Chuck Plaehn said his squad has felt like a top-tier team all season and has set out to prove so in the final weeks.

“We always felt like we were in the same place as Williamston and Gabriel Richard, even though the rankings didn’t say so,” Plaehn said. “Our coach always tells us that we’re capable of playing any team, and this just helps us gain confidence heading into (the championship).”

The match started with a Jack Gonzalez goal, and it ended that way, too.

Gonzalez scored his first goal less than three minutes into the game. After a free kick from senior Remy Collard bounced around in the box, the sophomore ripped a shot to give his team a 1-0 lead.

Gonzalez converted on the final goal after a nifty pass from Sam Gonzalez glided across the box and put him in prime position to bury a shot right in front of net with 1:43 left to play.

“We all knew we had the skills, but to put it away like that, we’ve been looking for that all season,” Jack Gonzalez said.

Lansing Catholic will face No. 6-ranked Grosse Ile at 6 p.m. Friday for the regional championship.

Contact James L. Edwards III at jledwards@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.

Jack Gonzalez ,left, of Lansing Catholic dribbles around Tom Holowicki of Gabriel Richard during their Division 3 regional quarterfinal game Tuesday October 25, 2016 in Williamston. Gonzalez would score both Cougar goals in the game. KEVIN W. FOWLER PHOTO

Jack Gonzalez ,left, of Lansing Catholic dribbles around Tom Holowicki of Gabriel Richard during their Division 3 regional quarterfinal game Tuesday October 25, 2016 in Williamston. Gonzalez would score both Cougar goals in the game. KEVIN W. FOWLER PHOTO

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