Although the Grand Haven varsity girls soccer team did a lot of things right during its rivalry showdown against Rockford on Tuesday at Buccaneer Stadium, the cruel twist in soccer is that the scoreboard didn’t reflect those positives.
Both Rockford coach Steve Thomas and Grand Haven coach Cor Damhuis said the Bucs did a tremendous job of pressuring the ball and limiting the effectiveness of a quick-pass, quick-strike Rams squad.
But the Bucs also didn’t do enough offensively to put themselves in position to upset the No. 9-ranked Rams. As a result, one late defensive breakdown proved costly for Grand Haven.
Rockford’s senior midfielder Missy Biener made a strong charge on goal with just 5:40 remaining in the second half and received a perfect timing pass that allowed her to slip free and knock a low shot past the reach of Bucs’ goalie Faith Platz. The goal stood up, giving Rockford (12-2-2 overall) a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
For the Rams, their 12th shutout of the year is a new school record, according to Thomas.
“It’s a grind. It’s a grind,” Thomas said after the win. “Our league is as good as it’s ever been top to bottom and on any given night, you can lose. Grand Haven is always well organized and well coached by Cor. I’d say this is one of their most athletic teams we’ve faced. We’re just fortunate that we made one more play than they did tonight.”
The first half produced few tense moments, other than a strong shot from Grand Haven’s Claire Borchers that required Rockford goalie Marissa Platz to elevate to tip the ball over the crossbar.
The other Platz in goal — Bucs’ netminder Faith Platz — also kept a cool head as a ball skipped around in a crowd off a Rams’ corner kick, but she swiftly scooped it up to avoid further danger. Rockford recorded nine shots on goal, compared to the Bucs’ four.
Grand Haven had arguably its best opportunity to end its scoreless streak midway through the second half, as junior Taylor DeWitt received a nice feed from midfield and was loose on a breakaway. She halted her dribble just outside of the penalty box and fired a looping shot that struck the crossbar and bounced away.
The quality offensive looks were few and far between for the Bucs, as Damhuis said his team needs to do a better job of orchestrating their attack.
“We have to find connections and we have to play off the target player and make runs off the target,” Damhuis said. “They know the concept, they just have to put their feet where their mouth is. We have to execute and we have not been doing that.
“It was better today, but we still have to stay wide. Tonight, we shot everything straight up the middle and hoped our forwards could run up on it and finish.”
The Bucs were also shut out by neighboring rival Spring Lake on Saturday, 2-0, and Damhuis said his squad is starting to become frustrated by the tough big-game losses.
“They are really down on their luck right now, because they felt they played decent, but they can play better and they know it,” he said.
Faith Platz made another strong save with a little more than 7 minutes remaining after a Rockford cross slipped through a crowd of players and left the Rams with a point-blank shot. But the quick-reacting Platz snared the ball to keep the 0-0 score in tact.
She simply didn’t have the necessary time to react on the Rams’ goal, however.
“We’ve been talking for the last several weeks about making every run hard and with that, the ball got in on time on a run from behind and the pass was on time,” Thomas said. “That was good for the girls to see that happen, especially late in the game.”
Grand Haven couldn’t muster another shot on goal in the final 5 minutes of action and saw its record drop to 5-4-2. The Bucs will look to swing their fortunate on Thursday against visiting Grandville. They’ll also face a Forest Hills Central squad on Saturday that Damhuis calls one of the best in the state.
Junior Varsity: Grand Haven was dealt a 4-2 setback by Rockford. Both of the Bucs’ goals were scored by Katie Fojtik.
Freshmen: Grand Haven defeated Rockford, 3-0. The Bucs picked up goals from Ravyn DeWitt, Taylor Fase and Emma Grove. Coach Jaren Soule also highlighted the strong hustle of Emma Fritz during the win.