Lansing Catholic upsets Williamston in district soccer semis

Williamston's Jack Bellinger, left, and Lansing Catholic's Jack Gonzalez vie for the ball Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Lansing, Mich.

Williamston’s Jack Bellinger, left, and Lansing Catholic’s Jack Gonzalez vie for the ball Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Lansing, Mich.

After moving from Illinois to mid-Michigan midway through his freshman year, Remy Collard was split between attending Williamston High School and Lansing Catholic High School.

In the end, after attending Catholic schools his entire life, he picked the Cougars. And during his first couple of seasons on the school’s varsity soccer team, the program failed to beat the Hornets in the regular season and in the district tournament.

That changed Wednesday night.

Collard, a senior captain, scored a goal and netted a penalty kick as Division 3 No. 13-ranked Lansing Catholic fought back to defeat No. 5-ranked Williamston, 2-1 (4-2 on penalty kicks), in a penalty-kick shootout in the district semifinals at Lansing Catholic High School.

The Cougars will face the Leslie Blackhawks, who defeated Perry, 4-1, for the district championship Saturday.

“Our mentality was confident, not cocky,” Collard said. “We know how great of a team we are, and our goal is to win states. We haven’t set that high of a goal since 2011 when we (finished) second.

“We’re looking forward to winning more games.”

After five minutes of play passed, it looked as if the Hornets were on pace to keep the winning streak alive. Junior Eli Richardson gave Williamston a 1-0 lead around the 36-minute mark when his chip shot soared over Lansing Catholic keeper Matthew Benivegna.

Lansing Catholic's Jack Gonzalez, left, heads the ball over Williamston's Max Eyster (5) Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Lansing, Mich.

Lansing Catholic’s Jack Gonzalez, left, heads the ball over Williamston’s Max Eyster (5) Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Lansing, Mich.

However, from there, the Hornets struggled to create many more scoring opportunities, and the Cougars quickly took over as the aggressor. Lansing Catholic was able to even the contest at the start of the second half when Collard ripped a shot from 20-plus yards that found the back of the net.

“Early on in the season, we panicked whenever someone scored on us first,” senior captain Chuck Plaehn said. “We’ve grown, we’ve matured, and we didn’t panic. We knew we could come back and win, and that’s what we did.”

After two scoreless extra-time periods, the Cougars and Williamston entered a penalty-kick shootout. Alec Gonzalez, Collard, Plaehn and Jack Gonzalez executed all four of the team’s shots. The Hornets missed on two of their four shots.

Coming into the season, the expectations remained high for Williamston, despite losing 10 starters to graduation from last year’s team that fell short in the state championship. The Hornets, who won the CAAC White title, came into the tournament looking to win their sixth consecutive district title.

“As soon as last season ended … We came together,” Richardson said. “We worked hard. We wanted to get here, wanted to win a district (title), and wanted to go further.

“We didn’t get the ball forward. …They had the ball, and we were forced to defend a lot. We couldn’t really get the ball forward, and that added to our struggles.”

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

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