GRAND HAVEN – The Grand Haven boys soccer team has a colossal matchup Wednesday when they take on No. 1-ranked Okemos in the first round of regionals.
The Buccaneers are no strangers to facing big time opponents, however. In their first district match, they beat a conference foe in Grandville, then beat No. 5-ranked Rockford before topping a very talented Grand Rapids Union team.
“You’re studying your opponent and working at playing your game and I feel like we have worked at it all year and it is starting to click with our players, working together and having good communication,” Grand Haven head coach Nick Tejchma said. “Something we did differently with Union is we knew who their key players were and we shut them down. With us it’s awesome because it’s our whole team working together whereas others might have a couple star players.”
The team will be put to the ultimate test Wednesday when they go up against a 14-1 Okemos team.
“They’re a solid team, they’ve played Traverse City West, who we played and who is also in our region. They played East Kentwood and beat East Kentwood,” Tejchma said. “I’ve done my homework and they’ve got a couple key players. They have a solid player that they always play to and who is getting a lot of recognition throughout the state right now. I feel like if we can strategize and try to shut those guys down and play our game it will be a good match.”
Strategy is going to be important going into the match and the fact that this Bucs team has been flexible with formation and game plans all season long bodes well for them moving forward.
“We’ve got a couple formations that we like to use during the game and it just all depends on how it’s going and how we feel at that moment. So far it’s been working for us through the tournament and the boys are all familiar with everything we do so they can change it on a dime which is nice,” Tejchma said.
For the seniors on the team, every game they play could be their last as a Buccaneer. They see that as incentive to give it their all every time they are on the field.
“I think that pushes us to give our 100 percent every single game. It keeps our energy high,” Gavin Jonker said.
“Because we know, especially during the Rockford game when we were down one, if we don’t pull through and score one and get it tied up that we could very much lose this. It’s a big motivator because half of this team is mostly seniors,” Jaden King added.
Senior Evan Yu had a completely different experience with facing the end of his soccer career at Grand Haven.
“Before we played Rockford I felt sick for the entire day. I couldn’t eat lunch, but as soon as I got on the field that went away and I was just playing a game. I think leading up to it the pressure is there, but once you’re on it’s just playing a game,” Yu said.
“For Okemos, it’s a different story though. The way I view it is we’ve got nothing to lose, but everything to prove. We are, what, 56 in the state? They are first, but I think we have the potential to win as long as we play our best.”
The level of teams that the Buccaneers have played gives them the confidence that they can do it again. The seniors are not shying away from the challenge and know what they have to do to come out on top.
“Knowing that we have taken down some big hitters already I think that gives us a ton of confidence. Also, we know we can do it if we want to,” Jonker said.
“We have a lot of chemistry on this team and if everyone clicks in and realizes that we have the potential to win a state championship and like Gavin said we’ve taken down a lot of big teams so we can definitely pull through,” King said.
Yu sees the back line of defense and the strong midfield that the Bucs field as the keys to victory.
“One of the biggest things is cleaning up backline mistakes. If you go back to conference season you’ll see that a lot of the goals scored on us were just simple breakdowns that can be fixed. As long as our midfield plays their game, I think we have one of the strongest midfields in Michigan with players like Max Jerovsek, Gavin Jonker and Turner Oosterbaan they just absolutely boss up in there,” Yu said.
The regional match kicks off at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Rockford.
Contact D’Angelo Starks by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DAngelo_Starks.