By: Daniel Stickradt
GIRLS SOCCER: Flint Powers Catholic exercises demons, deflates Freeland 4-0 for D3 crown
BY DAN STICKRADT
WILLIAMSTON — The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Flint Powers Catholic has tasted both the past two years.
A year ago, Powers Catholic lost in the Division 3 state championship to Hudsonville Unity Christian, 2-0, despite holding a 17-3 shots advantage in that contest — a contest the Chargers more than dominated.
This time around the top-ranked Chargers left no doubt.
Powers Catholic scored three first-half goals and added another in the second half to blank first-time state finalist Freeland, 4-0, on June 16 at the Williamston High School Soccer Complex, capping a stellar season where the Chargers were ranked No. 1 for the entire campaign.
Rachel Phillpotts remembers the long ride home from Lansing last June, and her and the 11 other seniors on the Chargers’ roster vowed not to suffer the same fate again.
“It was definitely on our mind,” smiled Phillpotts, Powers’ most highly-rated player who aided 15 shutouts this season. “We didn't like that feeling, losing last year. We had some pressure this year being No. 1 in the state. We wanted to win the state title this season more than anything.”
Powers Catholic (26-1-2) motored through the state tournament with seven wins and a 31-2 scoring edge.
“That was rough last season. We dominated that game and still lost,” noted Powers Catholic coach Art Moody. “We gained some valuable experience and I thought we dominated again this time.”
Powers Catholic outshot Freeland 13-6 overall, including 9-3 with shots directly on frame. More importantly, the Chargers’ frustrated the Falcons high-powered offense and rarely allowed Freeland to pose a serious threat.
“We play Powers soccer. We play possession. We play direct. We use our speed. We kind of mix it all around and it works,” added Moody. “I thought our defense was strong all season long. They didn't give up very many chances (in the finals) at all.”
Powers Catholic took a 1-0 lead on the Chargers’ first shot on frame. Following a free kick from sophomore Rachel Rasin, the ball bounced around the penalty area before freshman Kennedy Myers tucked in a shot from one yard out with 30:18 to play in the first half.
Myers pushed the lead to 2-0 with 19:05 remaining in the first half. After her initial shot down the right side was blocked, Myers blasted home the rebound.
Powers Catholic added to its lead less than two minutes later. Following a long throw in, the ball stayed in the penalty box before senior Emilie Pechette booted home on a close-range shot with 17:31 left before the break.
The Chargers capped the scoring with 20:25 left to play in the contest, when senior Gabrielle Amato headed in a corner kick from senior Sophia Dubiel.
“I think the girls wanted (Hudsonville) Unity Christian after what happened last season,” said Moody. “When we saw it was Freeland, we knew they were good, too. We did a great job attacking their defense, going after their defenders 1-v-1 and creating chances. Scoring those three goals in the first half I think deflated them a little bit.”
Freeland lost in the state semifinals the past three years, including the previous two years to Unity Christian, which has won 10 state titles over the past 13 seasons. The Falcons slipped past Unity Christian, 3-2, in this year’s semifinals, but that victory came with a cost.
One of Freeland’s top players, senior Jessica Piper (Northwood), suffered a serious knee injury with 48 seconds left in that semifinals win.
In the finals, Powers Catholic marked up Freeland’s Michelle Herring (Michigan State) and leading goal scorer Mackenzie Stroebel, limiting the Falcons to only six total shot attempts.
“That hurt. When you lose one of your playmakers who is also very good defensively, it changes the way you play,” said Freeland coach Lauren Kemerer. “We struggled to get into any type of a flow. Credit Powers’ defense for that.”
Still, Kemerer acknowledged how far the Freeland program has come in recent years and has solidified itself amongst the Division 3 powerhouse teams.
A total of 18 of 24 players are expected to return next year for Freeland (23-2-0).
“Our goal this year was getting past Unity,” added Kemerer. “We wanted it and worked towards it. We hit our goals. We expected to make it here. It’s unfortunate we lost but it is what it is. It’s a learning experience for all of us. We went out there and gave it our best. That’s all we can ask of them. We lost to a very talented team.”