As Spring Lake’s players walked dejectedly off the pitch, Fruitport’s Jordyn Stanberry sprinted off the field, pumping her fists in celebration before leaping into a teammates’ arms.
Monday’s showdown to decide the Lakes Eight Conference girls soccer regular-season champion ended in a 1-1 tie. That outcome had vastly different meanings to the two competitors.
For the Lakers, ranked No. 4 in Division 2 and unbeaten on the year, the tie proved vastly disappointing, especially considering the manner in which the Trojans salvaged the tie.
To see more photos from Monday's showdown, click here.
Stanberry buried a free kick into the Lakers’ net with just 10 seconds remaining in regulation. The goal came after the Lakers were called for a dangerous play, resulting in an indirect kick just inside their penalty box. An indirect kick must be touched by a second player to become a live ball, so the Trojans’ Emily Winicki tapped the ball to Stanberry. The Trojans’ senior took over from there, driving a shot just inside the left goal post for a 1-1 tie.
“Oh my gosh, I’ve never been so excited in my life,” Stanberry gushed after the game. “To score that goal to make us go into overtime with a state-ranked team like this, it’s big.”
The Trojans were also celebrating because Monday’s outcome guarantees them home-field advantage throughout the upcoming Lakes Eight tournament. Since both the Lakers and the Trojans finished without a loss, the tiebreaker is goals against in league play. Fruitport allowed just one goal in its league games, while the Lakers surrendered two.
“A tie for us was like a win,” said Trojans’ coach Jeannie McClain. “They have a goal scored against them in the conference, and we didn’t have any (before Monday’s game).”
“Now, to have a conference title game on our field, that’s big for us,” Stanberry said.
The game ending in a tie was even more impressive for the Trojans considering they played a player short for the final 33 minutes of the game after senior Carly Kryfka was sent off with a red card early in the second half. She got tied up with Spring Lake’s Morgan Carey and, according to the referee, took a kick at the Lakers’ midfielder.
The fact that the Trojans remained within striking distance was impressive, considering the fact that the Lakers dominated the game for most of the 80 minutes of regulation.
Spring Lake’s Kenzie Price scored just five minutes into the contest, and the Lakers had several other quality chances to pad their lead. They hit the post several times, and had many other dangerous chances that didn’t result in shots on goal.
“I felt we were the better team most regulation time,” said Lakers’ coach Jeremy Thelen. “Actually, I feel like for 79.4 minutes of the game, we were the better team, but you know what, you’ve got to finish off the game. There were some interesting bounces that didn’t go our way, but we’ve got to fight through that.”
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