By Ben Murphy
Photos by Ben Murphy
Ogemaw Heights hasn’t been in the Northern Michigan Soccer League for very long. If Tuesday night’s girls soccer game between Clare and the Lady Falcons is any indication, they were a perfect addition to the league as the Lady Pioneers had to fight to the end for a 3-2 shootout win on the road.
“It was an intense game,” Clare head coach Jim Bond said. “I was a little concerned coming in because we were missing a lot of players this game. I had five girls gone for drivers training, two were injured and another one was sick.”
The shorthanded Pioneers took awhile to get going in this one. The Falcons controlled play for the first 15 minutes before Clare started to pick up its scoring chances, though the game was knotted in a scoreless tie at the half.
A defensive miscue led to an open shot for the Falcons early in the second half, giving them a 1-0 lead. The score remained there until five minutes to play when Kayla Junge knocked in a shot to tie the game at one apiece, with the game eventually heading to overtime.
The Pioneers drew first blood in the first overtime, getting a goal by Gwen Sherwood, but another defensive breakdown in the second overtime led to the game getting tied up 2-2, eventually leading to a shootout.
The Pioneers had Ashley Hayer and Junge beat the Ogemaw goalie with goals to the inside of the net on the team’s first two penalty kicks and goalkeeper Maddie Walters made saves on all four shots she faced to finally end the night in favor of the Pioneers.
“I was definitely happy to get the win,” Bond said. “It was nice to see the team win this type of game where we got down and came back and won. Sometimes when the other team gets ahead you start playing poorly but that never happened, the wind was never taken out of our sails and that was good to see.”
While Bond doesn’t hope to rely on winning too many games in a shootout this year, he feels his team executed the situation perfectly Tuesday.
“We got unlucky when they came back and tied it up in the second overtime but we were able to keep cool heads,” Bond said. “We work on penalty kicks in practice and they did exactly what we worked on and it worked out perfectly. Walters made some great saves, very rarely do you have a goalie make that many saves in a shootout so that was exceptional. I’m very excited for the girls.”
Clare (3-2 overall, 3-1 NMSL) enters a key series of league games beginning tonight (Friday) at home against Houghton Lake. The Pioneers also play McBain Northern Michigan Christian twice next week, traveling to the Comets home field on Tuesday and hosting them on Thursday.
“This is a big stretch coming up for us,” Bond said. “These games are going to be huge for our games and who wins our half of the conference.”