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Overpowering Underdogs

Josh VanDyke • Jun 1, 2018 at 12:30 AM

FRUITPORT — Publicity and predictions can serve as motivational tools for any team that feels disrespected.

That is the case for the Fruitport girls soccer team, as they were widely viewed as an underdog in the Division 2 district tournament heading into Thursday's district semifinal match with Coopersville at Fruitport High School.

A year after the program graduated the vast majority of its scoring production from a team that finished 16-5, the Trojans were out to prove this wasn't a rebuilding year.

They did so in emphatic fashion, bucking away the Broncos in a 5-1 win.

"I think heading into the districts, we were underestimated a little bit," said Fruitport head coach Jeannie McClain after the game. "The girls were aware of that, and I think they kept that in mind tonight. When we are out there competing, we play with pride and heart and we give it everything we've got.

"We wanted to prove that we are more than just an afterthought."

GAMETRACK

The Trojans dominated possession throughout the game but struggled to capitalize on their chances in the first half.

Fruitport entered halftime with a 1-0 lead, thanks to a goal by sophomore Maddie Wescott off an assist from fellow sophomore Ellie Fisher at the 28-minute mark.

"We just needed to come together a little bit at halftime, but I don't think anyone was worried that we wouldn't be able to score a few more goals," admitted McClain. "We were winning the possession battle, so I knew it was just a matter of time before we got things going.

"Ellie is the one that we talked to the most at halftime. We just told her to get after the ball and start shooting. You can see that made a difference in her play in the second half and she made a huge difference in the game's outcome.

"Sometimes, she can be a little too unselfish out there. She's only a sophomore and she doesn't want to take a goal away from an upperclassman or a teammate. We'd rather have her be a little more selfish out there sometimes, and she can be a difference maker when she is."

Fisher didn't waste any time showcasing her skills, as she ripped a shot past the Coopersville keeper off an assist from senior Isabelle Raven less than two minutes into the second half to give the Trojans a 2-0 lead in what felt like a backbreaking goal for a Broncos squad that wasn't generating many scoring chances.

Senior Lauren Peterson scored off a penalty-kick opportunity to make it 3-0 Fruitport, followed by a goal by freshman Sarah Zielinski a few minutes later, off an assist by Fisher to make it 4-0.

Coopersville would scrap the goose egg off the scoreboard with a goal by Chloe Reeder with 11 minutes left to make it 4-1, but Fisher would stay aggressive on the attack, adding an insurance goal off an assist from teammate Olivia Langlois with 1:30 left on the clock to put the game away.

"At first, I was struggling, but I talked to my coaches at halftime and we figured it out," said Fisher. "They told me what I needed to work on and as a team, we started to put together more opportunities inside the box. We scored a couple after that and we gained a lot of confidence and kept the pressure up.

"I was just thinking to myself, ‘If the ball is there, you have to go all in. If you slow up, you probably aren't going to score, so you have to go all in.' Liv (Langlois) set me up with a great pass and I finished on the other end."

Fruitport advances to host rival Spring Lake (13-2) in the district championship game on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Lakers have eliminated the Trojans in the district title game the previous three seasons, but that doesn't concern this year's squad.

"I'm looking forward to seeing them again," added McClain. "We don't back down from anybody, and we are going to play hard no matter who we play. We are the underdogs and nobody is expecting much from us.

"We're going to go out there and give them a show."

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