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Nitty Gritty

Duncan MacLean • Oct 11, 2016 at 12:13 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — The Grand Haven boys soccer team overcame an underwhelming first half performance to defeat Caledonia on Monday. The Bucs netted two scores in the second half to lift them to a 2-1 victory.

“Caledonia is a really good team,” said Grand Haven coach Aaron Dean. “The first time we played them, it was a 0-0 tie. You look at their scores, and they are really comparable to what we have done, they are a tough team.”

Through the first half of play, the game looked as though it would end in familiar fashion. Neither the Bucs nor Scots had a successful try through the first 40 minutes.

“I wasn’t really surprised we weren’t getting in,” Dean said of his team’s first half performance. “I wasn’t totally disappointed, but I think we lost some of our rhythm. We were knocking around the ball pretty well, but then we kept getting into these deep balls, it just pulled us apart.”

Both teams adopted a kick-and-chase attack as set plays and careful passing failed to convert.

“We would hit a deep ball and try and almost score, then they would hit a deep ball and almost score. It just kind of went back and forth,” added coach Dean.

The second half of play saw all three of the game’s goals scored.

Conner Lund broke the plane for the first time just two minutes into the half, ripping a shot from the top of the box past the Caledonia keeper.

The Scots would not take the goal lying down. After a series of hard-fought possessions, they would earn an equalizer. A deep ball turned breakaway was too much for backup goalie Filiberto Juarez, who played relief for starter Jake Thayer in the second half.

“He’s done really well, that breakaway goal, there is nothing he can do about that. That’s not on him,” said coach Dean of the tying goal.

Now tied at one, the match’s intensity continued to build as the clock wound down. Both teams saw chances to score and failed before the Bucs converted the go-ahead game winner.

Ethan King, not one to miss out on game-deciding moments, did the honors with a textbook volley from the top of the box, punctuated with a high-flying, hesitation fist pump. Tavin Ardell assisted King on the score. The Bucs went on to win the game, 2-1.

Coach Dean was pleased with the boys’ effort in the second half of their next to last regular season contest.

“We got some of our shape back, we got back into what we try and do more often. They are a good team, we got up one, and they got it back pretty quickly. It is nice to win though. That’s always good.”

Ethan King was given the team’s player of the game award in the form of “the boots”.

“He’s kind of someone who we have asked to play different roles. At first, it was a little bit of struggle to define what I kept asking him to do, but the last couple games he has figured out what we are looking for. His work rate is always really good.”

The boots are given to a player who shines in the game in the right ways, contributing to the team with work ethic and determination.

“It’s all those little things, the hustle-back on defense, winning balls in the middle. That’s why you get the boots. It’s the nitty-gritty stuff,” added coach Dean.

Scoring game-winning goals helps, too.

The Buccaneers now have just one game remaining in their regular season schedule, a home matchup with O-K Red rival East Kentwood on Wednesday night.

“We’ve got a couple trick plays we saved for that game,” joked coach Dean. “It’s going to be the same thing. We’re going to try and do what we do best — be aggressive and intense and get the ball back quickly. They are always talented. Coach Conlon always does great with those guys. It’s the last home game of the season, so it’ll be a big night for the seniors. We will see what happens.”

The Falcons sit at third in the O-K Red Conference standings, one spot behind Grand Haven, and two behind conference-leading Rockford. The final round of games is unlikely to affect those standings.

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