The drawn-out celebration began with a 4-0 drubbing of the Eagles in Grand Haven’s final regular-season game at home and ended huddled around the phone of Athletic Director Scott Robertson as he received reports on the final score of the Rockford vs. Caledonia game in Grand Rapids.
After their defeat of Hudsonville, a Rockford vs. Caledonia tie clinched the title for Grand Haven and Caledonia. A Rockford win triggered a three-way tie and a Caledonia win took it all for the Fighting Scots. The 1-1 tie was just what the Bucs ordered.
“It is an awesome feeling,” said first-year Grand Haven head coach Nick Tejchma of the shared title. “It is thanks to the entire coaching staff and the boys and this community standing behind them, it isn’t because of me. It takes everyone as a whole and that is great.
“All the teams in our conference are tough and can always bring it. The communication, the grit and the aggressiveness of our team is something special. When something happens on the field, they are very good at being flexible and adapting to the situation. That helps in this conference.”
That flexibility was put to the test Wednesday, as Hudsonville came to play through a rainy first half. An evenly matched contest brought a 0-0 tie into the break as the Bucs struggled to finish offensive chances.
Everything changed at halftime, as Grand Haven netted three goals in the opening nine minutes of the second half.
The first came off the foot of junior Gavin Jonker, who received the ball in the traffic and survived a hard challenge by the Hudsonville goalie to finish for a goal just over two minutes into the half.
One minute later, junior Jaden King collected a ball at midfield and took it straight into the box, burning the Eagle’s keeper with a rocket from point-blank range.
At the 31-minute mark, Max Jerosvek netted another solo goal, shaking loose his defender with a double cut just outside of the box before ripping a clean shot into the corner.
By then, the rain had stopped and Hudsonville had folded. With seven minutes left to play, Cam Rosenberg topped things off by netting a rebound to bring the game to its final tally of 4-0.
“That has kind of been a thing this year,” said Tejchma of the first half. “We come out strong in the first half and figure out how the other team is playing soccer, but sometimes we adapt to how they are playing.
“At halftime, we said, ‘Boys, we have to turn that around. We have to possess the ball, keep our passes on the ground, retain control and make the runs we are supposed to,’ we reminded them to do the things we have been working on, stay consistent and positive and keep lifting it up and they did that and you saw what happened. We just put away a few opportunities and were off to the races.”
The turnaround wasn’t just on offense, a hostile takeover of the midfield game and strangling play by the Grand Haven back line denied any and all momentum for the Hudsonville offense, who struggled to break into their offensive third at all in the second half.
“The difference on defense was again what we talked about in the locker room,” Tejchma said. “Settle down and play our game. Keep your composure. Brenner Kar got the shutout tonight and that isn’t just him, that’s the defense working well together as a whole.”
The win caps an undefeated run at home for the regular season, marking a highly successful coaching debut at Grand Haven for first-year head coach Nick Tejchma.
Grand Haven isn’t finished in front of their home crowd, however. Next week the Bucs will host the district tournament, giving Bucs fans another opportunity to show their support. Mona Shores lies waiting in the opening round, who Grand Haven defeated at home in their season opener by a score of 5-2.
“Now, our mindset is on districts,” Tejchma said. “We are so far undefeated at home so that has been great and we are hoping to keep that rolling through districts. We will just take it one game at a time.”
The district tournament kicks off for the Bucs on Monday at 7 p.m.