By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
What a spot for a freshman to be in.
The Mona Shores soccer team had battled Reeths-Puffer to a 1-1 draw through regulation and nearly two overtimes Thursday night.
Then the Sailors got a break with just under 5 minutes left in the second overtime period. One of their players drew a penalty about 12 yards from the Rocket goal, setting up a free kick from point blank range.
So who was chosen to take the kick? Freshman Kevin Quigg.
Instead of panicking, as a first-year player might be expected to do, Quigg calmly lofted a shot over the right shoulder of the Reeths-Puffer goaltender, sealing a thrilling 2-1 O-K Black Conference victory for Mona Shores.
“A little bit,” said Quigg, when he was asked if he was nervous prior to the shot. “I knew I could make it in that corner so I just tried it and it worked. I’ve been practicing from that side, and I knew if I put it in the top the goalie couldn’t get it even if he guessed it.”
Some might have been surprised that a youngster was chosen to take a huge shot at that point in the game. But Mona Shores coach Jeremy Leffring said it was predetermined, because Quigg has a regulation net at home and had been practicing penalty kicks from that range all summer.
“He shoots penalty kick after penalty kick and he takes the same shot over and over,” Leffring said of Quigg. “We missed a few penalty shots earlier this year with some older guys, so I just said enough. In practice I said we’re going to have Quigg do it.”
The victory didn’t come easy for the Sailors, who improved to 7-2-1 overall and 3-0-1 in conference play.
They trailed 1-0 at halftime and didn’t manage to tie the score until late in regulation, when Jacob DeRemer managed to take control of the ball in a crowd of players in front of the net and beat Reeths-Puffer goaltender Troy Gilmore.
Nate Hoover had the assist for Mona Shores.
The goal was the first in awhile for the Sailors, which struggled to a 0-0 tie against Zeeland East earlier this week, despite outshooting their opponents 15-5.
The Sailors hit the goalpost six times in that game.
“I thought Reeths-Puffer played great defense today,” Leffring said. “They kept us shooting fom the outside and their goalie made a lot of nice saves. We missed the target some but we only had one post, so I’m happy with the improvement.”
The Rockets maintained offensive pressure throughout the game, but were turned away repeatedly by Mona Shores goaltender Eli Bowers, who totaled eight saves.
Mona Shores also had its share of scoring chances, but were held off the scoreboard for most of the contest by Gilmore, who is usually the second string goaltender but has been playing regulary for several weeks due to an injury to starter Thomas Swiatek.
Gilmore had 12 stops for Reeths-Puffer, including a remarkable save from close range with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
Senior captain Cody Loss had the lone goal for Reeths-Puffer, scoring with just under 25 minutes remaining in the first half to give his team a 1-0 edge that nearly held up for the entire contest.
The defeat may have cripped the Rocket’s chances to remain in the O-K Black race. They fell to 4-8-3 overall and 1-3 in conference play. Each team plays 10 conference games.
“Our boys play one of the most challenging non-conference schedules in West Michigan and this is part of the reason why, so we can compete in games like this,” said Reeths-Puffer coach Keith Knapp. “Historically Reeths-Puffer sees Mona Shores as our arch rival. Our guys see this game coming up and circle it on the schedule weeks ahead.”
Knapp admitted the defeat was tough to take after leading the Sailors for most of the game.
“It’s excruciating,” he said. “For the players, emotionally, it’s equivalent to the end of the season. For our seniors this is the last time we’re going to play them on this field. To have a lead for so long and then lose it, it’s pretty tough.
“On any given night I feel we’re among the elite in the conference, but our record doesn’t show it. It’s kind of hard to swallow.”