TROY – It had been a while since the Lansing Christian girls soccer team found itself in a predicament.
The No. 1-ranked Pilgrims, who outscored their competition, 122-5, during the regular season, strong-armed their first five playoff opponents by a combined score of 52-1. And heading into Tuesday’s Division 4 state semifinals match, it seemed as if their opponent, No. 4-ranked University Liggett, would, too, become a footnote during their historical run back to the state championship.
But that wasn’t the case.
In a rematch of last year’s state semifinals, the Knights notched an early first-half goal and held on to knock off Lansing Christian, 1-0, at Troy Athens High School.
“We showed our age a little bit,” said 10-year coach Joel Vande Kopple, whose team carries just two seniors. “And when you give up an early goal, you can either respond or freak out. And I think we freaked out a little bit today.”
For a team that’s not accustom to trailing, the game’s only goal, which came from Alexis Wenger less than three minutes into play, seemed to stagger the Pilgrims (21-2-2). They were only able to create two scoring chances, both of which were from long distance, despite controlling possession in the first 40 minutes.
“We don’t normally get scored on, so it was tough to realize that this is a serious thing, that we could possibly lose this game,” said forward Kasey Jamieson, who finished her sophomore season with 50 goals. “It was a shock, but, last year, the exact same thing happened: they scored within the first five minutes and we came back.
“We were all hoping we would come back. …I think we just got frazzled with the whole idea of everything.”
As the second half played out, frustration began to build. With less than 26 minutes to play, a Jamieson cross found the outstretched toe of junior Juliana Figueiredo, but the ball landed just wide of the target. Five minutes later, a shot from freshman Eliza Lewis bounced off the hands of University Liggett keeper Kara Francis before she was able to scoop it.
Freshman Ally Melvin gave Lansing Christian another scoring chance with under 15 minutes to play when she nearly cleaned up a shot from Jamieson in front of net, but the ball missed wide left. Melvin almost put home a loose ball after a corner kick but, again, the ball bounced wide of the net.
“At halftime, we talked about how we’re a second-half team and how we were going to come back and score like we did before,” Figueiredo said. “It got frustrating toward the middle of the second half when we hadn’t scored.
“We didn’t want it as much as them. …It (came down to) who worked the hardest and who wanted it most. We didn’t come out and take over like we usually do.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.