Shrine Back to Best in D4 Thanks to Clutch Goal, Stellar Defense

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for

June 17, 2022

EAST LANSING – For Royal Oak Shrine Catholic, the disappointment of last year’s 5-0 Division 4 Soccer Final loss to North Muskegon now can be replaced with Friday’s impressive 1-0 shutout of Kalamazoo Christian at DeMartin Field on the campus of Michigan State.

After a scoreless first half, junior Norah Tisko scored 25 seconds into the second on a header to give the Knights (16-4-2) a 1-0 lead. It was her seventh goal of the season, with the assist going to Bridgette Drouillard.

“Yes, I had the finish, but it was our defense,’’ said Tisko. “Ava Gappy working it up the midfield and giving the ball to Julia (Bock), and Bridgette just giving me the most beautiful ball to execute. I really can’t take credit for it. We came into this year a little shaky. We lost some important seniors, but we had a great group of freshmen come in and step up. We were motivated to continue our run. Knowing we were coming back here was a little nervous, but we had confidence.’’

With nine shutouts coming into the Final, paced by sophomore goalkeeper Elena Gallagher, the Knights were used to shutting down opposing offenses. 

“It starts with our defensive line and our goalie,” said Tisko. “Last year (Gallagher’s) appendix ruptured. We had a great second goalie, but she came back this year and our defensive line of seniors was so solid for us.”

It was a great 50th birthday present for coach Mark Soma.

Shrine/Kalamazoo Christian soccer“Very nice, can’t beat the party,” said Soma. “We were good last year, but we lost to a better team in North Muskegon. They were a talented group, and they deserved to win. The girls that came back wanted another taste of what it felt like.” 

Shrine had allowed just one goal during the playoffs, during a 9-1 victory over St. Joseph Our Lady of the Lake in the Regional Final. Friday saw the Knights’ sixth shutout of the tournament.

“It’s not just our D; it’s our team,’’ said Soma. “Sixteen girls worked hard today. That’s what we have done all season. We kind of caught them off guard on the goal.’’ 

Shrine was making their third straight appearance in the Final. Kalamazoo Christian, a four-time Finals champion, also previously finished runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Gallagher finished the year with a goals-against average under 0.95.

“I totally rely on my defense; they are incredible,’’ said Gallagher. “I’m really close to all of them, so it’s like a bond on and off the field. There’s a lot of trust, so that works well for us. We are really great at communicating. We locked down as a team after the goal.’’

Drouillard, Jackie Lapoint and Claire Plaskey also were on the 2019 championship team. 

The Comets (19-6) were on the attack most of the first half but couldn’t register a goal. Defense dominated the first 40 minutes as both sides had few scoring chances.

Annika Sytsma found one for Kalamazoo Christian with 1:13 to play in the half, but her shot went across the goal mouth and missed by inches.

“We were coming in with injuries, so we were trying to create different things,’’ said Comets coach Jay Allen. “It wasn’t meant to be today. We held (Tisko) for most of the game. She got loose once, and that was the difference. We were struggling to get that last step in there, but that’s soccer.

“We just couldn’t get a goal early, and this game is like that.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Royal Oak Shrine Catholic celebrates its Division 4 championship win Friday at DeMartin Stadium. (Middle) Shrine keeper Elena Gallagher makes a stop.

'Where is Spring Lake?' They'll Know Now as Lakers Begin Reign Atop D2

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

June 15, 2024

EAST LANSING – Ella Andree and Clara Saunders started recording a three-part Tik Tok on the opening day of Spring Lake’s girls soccer season, knowing that in order to film Parts 2 and 3 they would need to advance to, and win, the MHSAA Division 2 Final.

On Saturday, they finished the video.

Spring Lake defeated Bloomfield Hills Marian 1-0 at DeMartin Stadium to avenge a 2021 championship match loss to the Mustangs and claim the first Finals title in school history.

“If we won, we had it ready,” Andree said. “We did win, so I hope it looks good.

“The start of our season was a little rough, we had a lot of ties, and we didn’t really know where we were going to end up. But we pulled it together and figured out what players needed to do what, and to be here is super crazy.”

Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Clair Dauer (16) and Spring Lake’s Elaina Furton work for possession.Andree assisted Aveya Patino on the game’s lone goal, and goalkeeper Jessica Stewart made four saves behind a stout Spring Lake defense to give coach Becky May her first title in her eighth season coaching at her alma mater. That it came on the campus where May played collegiately only made it more sweet.

“Extremely proud of my girls, but just proud of West Michigan, our community and how we’ve been able to step up and really make a name for ourselves in the soccer world,” May said. “I played on this field in college, so as a homecoming for me, here’s why it’s important: When I got announced the first time I started at Michigan State, they announced me from Spring Lake, Michigan, and the girl next to me said, ‘Where in the world is Spring Lake?’ No one heard of anyone outside the sub(urb)s of Detroit. Well, they’ve heard of us now. So I’m very proud.”

The 2021 championship match appearance was Spring Lake’s first, and that ended with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Marian. Andree, Saunders and Stewart were among the players on the field Saturday who had played in that game as freshmen, and getting another shot at the Mustangs certainly added motivation.

“I feel like to replay the team that you originally lost to is always a great feeling,” Saunders said. “It’s just like a second chance. We have gotten a lot better, and I’m just glad that we made it back here. Especially for my senior year. We came out and did what every team wishes to do, is go all the way, and then we won it. I couldn’t be happier or more proud of this team.”

Saturday’s match was tightly contested, with both teams having long stretches of possession but not creating many big scoring chances.

The one that hit the back of the net started when Andree won a ball in the corner and played it across the goal. Marian keeper Dani Mertz was able to get a hand on it, but not all of it, and Patino was there to clean it up, scoring the 29th goal of her freshman season. It was also the first goal Marian (15-4-3) had allowed during the postseason.

Spring Lake players begin their celebration.“You can’t coach speed, (Patino and Andree are) born with those wheels, and all you have to do as a coach is just put them in the right spot, get them to work together, and they’re just going to be destructive from beginning to end,” May said. “So even when they don’t find the back of the net, they’re putting defenses on their heels and they have to respond to them and react to them. As a result of that, that gives us much more opportunity to possess in the middle of the field. So we put them up top, let them run havoc and then enjoy the benefits of that.”

From there, Spring Lake (17-2-5) stood tall defensively, not allowing the Mustangs to get a great chance to tie the game. With a back three of seniors Ella Rabideau and Brooke Bolthouse and junior Lauren Nicles playing in front of the experienced Stewart, May felt comfortable. Marian, meanwhile, was left frustrated as plenty of second-half possession failed to result in many opportunities. 

“They defended with five,” Marian coach Danny Price said. “I watched the Midland game where they played them in the Regional Final, and both of their outside backs were flying forward and they gave us a ton of space. In the first half, they did the same thing. After they scored their goal, they dropped their outside backs really deep and defended with five, which is what we’ve done in the postseason as well. I’ve got to give them props for that, they defended quite resolutely.”

Price was in his first season at Marian, and took over a young squad, as the Mustangs graduate a strong, but small (four) senior class.

“We’ll be back,” he said. “We’ve got a young squad, and we’ve got tons of freshmen coming in; we’ll just reload. We’ll be back here again.” 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Spring Lake keeper Jessica Stewart, in green, goes high to get a hand on the ball Saturday at DeMartin Stadium. (Middle) Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Clair Dauer (16) and Spring Lake’s Elaina Furton work for possession. (Below) Spring Lake players begin their celebration.