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By Fred Inglis
The last time Orchard View captured a boys district soccer title in 2005, coach Kyle Skodack was a senior on the field. So it was all the more sweet the Cardinals topped Shelby 2-1 on Saturday to end an 11-year district title drought.
Orchard View topped Whitehall 2-1 in a monsoon for the 2005 title, this year the skies were clear and the Cardinals got a lift from Michael Middlestadt’s first goal of the season.
“It’s crazy,” said Middlestadt. “I just saw the rebound, and I just hit it and hoped for the best. I aimed low like the coaches tell me to.”
Middlestadt’s big shot was the lone second half goal which came with 20:34 left on the clock. Jared Fleener started the Cardinal attack, but the ball was deflected and several players were left sprawling on the ground before Middlestadt pushed it past Shelby goalie Jonah Kelley.
“Michael missed plenty of shots just like that this year,” said head coach Skodack. “But he was composed, and it was a great moment for us.”
The win propels the 14-8 Cardinals to the Division 3 regionals next Tuesday for a 5 p.m. match at Hudsonville Unity Christian. OV will meet the district winner of the Paw Paw and South Haven matchup.
“We’ve basically been underdogs all season,” added Skodack. “We’ve been hurt, we’ve been down, and let opponents score goals at the wrong time. But the ball finally bounced right for us and we capitalized on it.”
Orchard View jumped out early with a Jared Fleener goal one minute into the contest. Evan McMiller set up the waiting Fleener who sent a 10 yard shot past the diving Kelley.
“That was a great confidence booster,” said Fleener. “We lost to Shelby earlier this year, so we wanted to make sure we set the tempo today.”
Shelby outshot Orchard View 8-4 in the game, but was only able to capitalize once.
Tiger junior Fernando Cabrera scored his 26th goal of the season when he took an assist from Enrique Vences and beat Cardinals backup goalie Mattia Criscione in the 32nd minute of the first half.
The OV goalie and Italian exchange student Criscione was called to duty after goalie Brandon Lindsley’s injury in his team’s 14-0 win over Hart in the district semifinals. Criscione finished with seven saves in the win.
“All our defense played great this week,” said Skodack. “We may be peaking at the right time.”
Shelby finishes the season at 18-2-1 after it claimed a share of the WMC championship for its first conference title since 2000. The Tigers reached the title game beating Grant and Whitehall and were seeking their first district title also since 2005.
“It’s a good season, but I wish we were still playing,” admitted Shelby head coach Pete Peterson. “The effort was there, but we just couldn’t get guys loose up front. Orchard View played good enough to beat us.”