Local Sports Journal
Two straight losses in the Division 3 soccer regional finals were quite enough for the Whitehall Vikings.
They were determined to finally clear that hurdle and get back into the state final four, and they accomplished their goal Thursday night.
Windsor Marecek and Daniel DuBois scored goals, the defense performed brilliantly and goalkeeper Hayden Collins overcame an injury to help the Vikings defeat Traverse City Christian 2-1 to capture a Division 3 regional trophy in Big Rapids.
Whitehall (21-3-1) now advances to Wednesday’s state semifinals at Hope College at 7 p.m. The winner of that contest will earn a berth in next Saturday’s Division 3 state final.
The current Whitehall squad is clearly as good as the previous teams that advanced to the regional finals each of the last two seasons, only to lose each time.
But this year’s success has been a bit of a surprise, since the Vikings lost 11 seniors, including 10 starters, from last year’s team.
They haven’t skipped a beat this season, plowing their way to a West Michigan Conference title and four postseason wins.
Thursday’s victory did not come easy.
Marecek opened the scoring 6:45 into the contest when he took a pass from teammate Luke Westrate, worked his way past the defenders and notched a goal.
Traverse City Christian knotted the score midway through the first half when a shot deflected off a Whitehall player and caromed into the goal.
DuBois scored the winning goal with 13 minutes remaining in the second half on a breakaway.
Whitehall outshot its opponent 10-5, but had to count on strong goaltending from Hayden Collins and a stingy defense to put away the win.
Collins had to leave the game at one point after his tooth went through one of his lips. But he returned a few minutes later to finish off the victory.
“We managed to clean all the blood off his face and bandage him up,” said Whitehall Coach Bryan Mahan. “He’s been a tough goalie all year.”
Mahan credited Lachlin Moore, Logan Hunt, Garrett Damm, Matt Rohen, Pat Johnson, Jake Knowlton and Zach Uganski for strong defensive play.
“These guys as a group played absolutely awesome on defense,” Mahan said. “The whole key for us was defense in the game tonight.”