COMSTOCK PARK — It came down to corner kicks in the Division 3 boys soccer championship game on Saturday.
Holland Christian converted twice, both during the second half, and took home its first Finals title since 2003 by defeating Grosse Ile 2-0 at Comstock Park High School.
Derek Huisman scored near the halfway point of the second half after a scoreless first, and Michael Pierce put the game effectively out of reach on a header with just under 11 minutes to go.
Making it that much sweeter for Huisman, a senior defender, was that the score was his first high school goal.
“It doesn’t get any better than that in high school sports,” said Maroons coach Dave DeBoer, freshly drenched in ice water after the game.
The Maroons (20-1-3) allowed only two goals over their final 13 games, with 10 shutouts in a row.
But Holland Christian made sure not to overlook Grosse Ile, which was playing in its fifth-consecutive Final.
“We came in knowing they were solid,” Huisman said. "Any team that makes it to the Final is a great team. Our coach prepared us well. We knew we could win, but we never underestimated them.”
After a first half played with howling winds and at times heavy rain, conditions eased up at halftime, while the Maroons made some adjustments.
"I felt we had a few opportunities in the first half, but we were hoping for better execution in the second half,” DeBoer said. "A corner kick is always dangerous for us, and we put one away. The second one, we felt really good then.”
At the 24-minute mark of the second half, Holland Christian took what turned out to be a decisive corner kick.
"I was trying to contest the ball,” Huisman said. "You always think about putting it away, but you never know what’s going to happen on corners, because it’s always a little bit wild in there. When the ball hit the ground, I knew I had to put it away, so off the foot and right in the back of the net.”
Pierce put the game out of reach with his ninth goal of the season 14 minutes later.
"I saw the ball coming, and I knew the kid covering me was smaller than me,” he said. “So I jumped, got my head on it, and put it exactly where I needed to.”
The stifling Maroons defense, which allowed only seven goals all season while recording 18 shutouts, did the rest.
Grosse Ile, meanwhile, came into the match with an eight-game winning streak that started in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
“I thought we put out a really great effort,” said Grosse Ile coach Jon Evans, who led the Red Devils (14-8) to all of those five-straight Division 3 Finals. “The senior class won two titles and lost two. There’s nothing to keep our heads down about. We started the season 1-3, and we’ve overcome a lot to get here. Today, the result is disappointing, but overall it was a successful season to get here and get back to the Final.”
PHOTOS (Top) Holland Christian celebrates its first MHSAA Finals championship Saturday since 2003. (Middle) The Maroons’ Jon Hogsten (4) and Grosse Ile’s Sam Vesperman battle for possession.
Join Robby Elliott as State Champs! takes a look at all of the action from the 2023 Boys Soccer Finals.