By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal

The Oakridge Eagles got a first-hand look at one of the state’s premier girls soccer programs on Wednesday.

Hudsonville Unity Christian is heading to the state finals for the ninth consecutive year after defeating the Eagles 2-0 in a Division 3 state semifinal game played at Hope College.

Oakridge goalkeeper Ashley Groendal kicks the ball after making a save on Wednesday.

The Crusaders will face Flint Powers, a 2-0 winner over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, in Saturday’s state title game.

“We struggled at first,” Oakridge coach Jeff Lohman said. “The girls had a hard time following their runners. They really do a good job with that. Both goals came from girls running across the defense. But after that, we settled in a little bit.”

Unity freshman Lauren Orr scored 4½ minutes into the game and sophomore Aubrey Schierbeek scored about 14 minutes later.

“It was something for us to keep them off the board,” Lohman said. “We were successful doing that other than a couple mental mistakes early in the game. Randy (Heethuis) is a great coach and he’s got a tough game ahead on a 90-degree day on Saturday.”

Unity’s depth also effectively wore down the Eagles. The Crusaders rotated 3-4 players every 10 minutes.

Oakridge did not register a shot on net and had just two corner kicks in the game. Overall, Unity outshot Oakridge 18-0.

“We did not get a lot of offense on Unity,” Lohman said. “They did a good job clearing the box (on the two corner kicks).”

Lohman lauded the efforts of his goalkeeper Ashley Groendal and sophomore defender Beka Shepherd.

“Ashley did a good job,” said Lohman, whose team came into the game a bit banged up. “She does a good job coming off her line.  She’s very good at getting those through balls or in the air.

“Beka is our center fullback and a sophomore,” Lohman said. “She really did a good job organizing our defense all year.”

The Eagles gave up just one goal during conference play this season and three in the tournament, two of which came on Wednesday.

“It was a good season and we’re happy with it,” Lohman said. “I’ve mentioned it before. We’re trying to change our style of play. I’ve watched Unity play five times in the state finals and a few times this year. Everything we’re trying to do, Unity did Wednesday.

“I’m hoping the girls will sit back and reflect on that,” Lohman said. “Everything they do, we want to do.”

The Eagles finished their season at 17-1-2.