Heads-up play was indeed the recipe for success for the Bucs, as they used two goals off headers and another penalty-kick goal to blank Jenison, 3-0, in the Division 1 district semifinals at Mona Shores High School on Thursday.
Photos from Thursday’s game
Senior forward Drew Van Andel got the scoring going 10 minutes into the game as he head-butted home a free kick from senior teammate Ethan King to give the Bucs an early 1-0 lead.
“That definitely got the momentum going, and we were able to find some passes after that to set up more scoring chances,” said Van Andel of his first-half goal. “We got two goals off of set pieces, and I thought we outplayed them. They played a heck of a game against us, but we just won the battles in the air and that made a huge difference in the game.
“To get a 1-0 lead that early is obviously a great morale booster, and to do that against a team like Jenison, which probably should have been a district final matchup, it was just great.”
Due to a first-round bye in the district draw, the Bucs were playing their first game in over a week. Van Andel thought the team needed the break, but could tell the execution could have been sharper.
“It was nice to have a break like that, and I think we needed it,” he added. “Obviously, you could see (in our play) that we haven’t played in almost a week, but I think we played pretty well in that second half.”
The team held a 1-0 lead at intermission. The message from coach Aaron Dean to his team was simple.
“(Coach) Dean just told us to get another one,” Van Andel said. “That was pretty much our objective as soon as we started the second half, and we did.”
12 minutes into the second half, senior Andrew Krapohl gave the Bucs an insurance goal when he stepped in front of a corner kick and banked in a header to give Grand Haven a 2-0 lead.
“That gave us a some cushion,” said Dean of his team’s second goal of the game. “It was certainly a game to that point, and it was great to get that first one, but I don’t think that impacted the game as much as the second one did. “The second one gave us a little extra cushion and a little bit of breathing room, and I think we were able to settle in a little more after that.”
After some chippy play and exchanging of yellow cards for both teams, senior Ethan King had a chance to put the game away on a penalty kick from inside the box.
The Jenison keeper dove left, while King calmly ripped the ball to the right corner to put the Bucs up 3-0 with 12 minutes remaining in the game.
Grand Haven would play keep away the rest of the way, and hold off any chance of a Jenison comeback to bring the game to its final tally.
“They played three up top, they were fast, physical, and I thought they pressed really, really well,” Dean said of Jenison. “That was something we knew they were going to try and do, and I thought they played really well. If you count the strings of passes, they probably put more together than we did. We were fortunate to get those set-piece goals, so that was the big difference tonight.
“You have to find your moments and put the ball in the back of the net when you get those opportunities. You don’t care how pretty they are, you just want them to count.”
Dean still thought there was plenty the team needed to work on heading into its district final.
“We didn’t carry the possession that well,” Dean added. “I think we adjusted to that in the second half, and we did a little bit better with that, but we really didn’t carry the possession the way I would have liked. We were doing too much chasing. We would hit the ball forward and run after it. We were just a little disconnected between the backs and the forwards.”
Dean had to remind a few players toward the end of the second half not to get too aggressive while the team attempted to milk away the clock with a big lead.
“They’re kids and its fun and exciting when you play games like this, but we were up 3-0, so at that point I didn’t want them to pinch and try force the issue,” Dean said. “We just wanted them to play defensive and to sit back a little bit. That’s something we haven’t really worked on, so we will do more work on that tomorrow at practice.”
The Bucs advance to play Grand Rapids Union on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Mona Shores High School. The Red Hawks defeated Granville, 2-1, in the nightcap of Thursday’s doubleheader.
Dean didn’t have any problem getting his team to focus heading into Thursday’s game and knows Saturday won’t be an issue either.
“We addressed that early in the week,” Dean said of the district upsets around the area. “We saw some good teams get beat early in the postseason, but that’s just the reality. Once you get to the tournament, everything you did before is thrown out the window. You have to show up every game. We knew we couldn’t take anything for granted tonight, and we know we can’t take our next opponent likely either.
“We have to value the opportunity.”