WILLIAMSTON – The regular season didn’t end as planned for the Williamston girls soccer team.
Injuries sidelined key players as the Hornets fell to DeWitt in the CAAC Gold Cup finale, derailing any momentum the club thought it had coming into the Division 3 district tournament.
Williamston got back on track quickly.
On Saturday, in their own backyard, the No. 3-ranked Hornets capped a stellar district tournament performance with a 3-0 victory over Leslie to claim their first district championship since 2014.
“Our team slogan has been ‘For Each Other,’ and I think we really put it into effect during these games,” senior midfielder Leah Davis said. “We know that we have to put everything on the line because it could be our last (game).”
Williamston outscored its three district opponents, 15-0, on its way to the championship. Davis said her team has been looking forward to the postseason, in hopes of meeting the high expectations set at the beginning of the year.
“I definitely think this was a strong game for us,” she added. “We’ll have a lot of momentum going forward after this.”
Davis didn’t take much time Saturday night getting the Hornets (17-5-1) in position to close out the tournament. The senior scored the game’s first goal less than six minutes into the first half. Less than a minute later, junior Paige Lonier put home a Kloe Hitchcock-assisted goal to give the host team a 2-0 lead.
Williamston’s ability to score from several different positions is what Lonier believes separates the Hornets from their competition. And it showed in the title game, as three different players added to the scoreboard.
“We have a lot of communication,” said Lonier, whose team had 20 shots on goal in the contest. “It’s helped a lot this season. We’re all working hard for each other and pushing each other to sprint and make sure everyone is motivated to their job.”
For the Blackhawks (15-4), Saturday was an opportunity to build on what they started last season. Leslie, which finished second in the Greater Lansing Athletic Conference, is a year removed from its first district championship in program history, and coach Jake Derby was hoping his team could take another step this season by knocking off one of the state’s top programs in the process.
“Last year, (that season) set a tone for us,” Derby said. “This year, our district draw was a little different. Williamston is a top-5 team and plays really good soccer.
“This season is the best we’ve played as a team.”
Renata Cunningham scored the final goal for the CAAC White champions with about 12 minutes remaining. Williamston senior goalkeeper Grace Kraft recorded her 14th shutout of the season.
Leslie keeper Britney Sibson tallied 16 saves on the night.
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.