The final game of the year could not have been closer or more tense. With the game even after 100 minutes of highly intense soccer the state championship game between Lansing Christian and Kalamazoo Christian would be decided by nerve-wracking penalties.
The game began 100 minutes earlier with the Pilgrims dominating possession and the chances but couldn’t break through the stout Comet defense. The first half would end nil-nil and the second half would prove a more open affair. The best chance would come from the Comets when they slotted a ball that beat Pilgrim goalkeeper, Lynn Cullens, and was heading to the corner of the net when Pilgrim winger Sarah Voss stepped in and cleared the ball just before it would reach the goal-line.
The game headed into overtime where both teams were desperate to find a winner before having to go to penalties. Rilyn Ross would find that goal late in the first overtime period when an inch-perfect cross from Jackie Moore found Ross’ head. She glanced the ball down toward the goal and into the back of the net for what Pilgrim Nation thought was the championship winning goal.
The second overtime period saw the Pilgrims defend deep as the Comets threw numbers forward. They would find the cruel equalizer with three minutes left in the contest. A misplaced clearance from the Pilgrim defense saw the Comets get a cornerkick. With even the goalkeeper up the ball flew to just outside the 6-yard box and was met with a powerful header that breached the Pilgrim goal. The goal deflated the Pilgrims as they could taste the championship and would now have to win it in penalties.
Perhaps the most pressurized situation in all of sports, penalties are a cruel way for any team to lose a championship match and they really test the nerve of the shooters. The Pilgrims shot first and Kealeigh Usiak would score on a perfectly placed shot to get the shootout off to a good start. Kalamazoo would answer with their first shot and bring us to the defining moment of the season.
Sophomore Abby Lyon stepped up for the second Pilgrim penalty. A low drive found its way under the Comet goalkeeper giving the Pilgrims the lead again. Junior goalkeeper, Lynn Cullens toed her goal-line waiting for the Comet’s second shot. With a perfectly timed dive she sprawled to her right and parried away the Comet penalty. As she walked away from the goal she pointed to the sky as the rest of the team celebrated.
Kasey Jamieson would then stride to the spot to take the third Pilgrim shot. A well-timed dive from the Comet netminder kept her shot out and the Comet’s in the contest. With the potential equalizer spotted 12-yards away the Comets would again slip up as their shooter rocked the crossbar to keep it 2-1 in favor of the Pilgrims.
Junior Jessie Kruger would shoot next for the Pilgrims and she left the Comet goalkeeper stuck in her place as she hit a great shot to the goalkeeper’s left. Her shot was followed by a goal from the Comets bringing the game to the final two shooters, with Pilgrim sophomore Eliza Lewis having a chance to win the state championship with her effort.
With everyone in the stands either standing or perched on the edge of their seat Lewis strode forward and lofted a shot to the goalkeeper’s right. The ‘keeper guessed correctly and sprawled out to try to get her fingers on the effort but couldn’t quite do it and had to watch as the championship ball hit the back of the net.
Lewis immediately spun around and met the onrushing Pilgrims in the middle of the field as the celebrations began. The highly pressurized situation had brought out the best in the Pilgrims and they now enter LCS history as the first girls soccer team ever to have won a state championship.
The defeated Comets stood with their heads held high as they received their medals and applauded the victorious Pilgrims as they got theirs. In a special moment, injured senior captain, Abby Krueger, received the championship trophy before handing it off to the rest of her teammates.
The special season ends with the Pilgrims having a record of 23-2-2 and a place in LCS lore. Pilgrim Nation would like to thank our four departing seniors, Abby Krueger, Lydia Sprague, Juliana Figueiredo, and Jordan Kolk for everything they have done for the program and leaving as the best team in the state.