By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON – The Orchard View Cardinals are known for scoring a lot of goals in the first half.

If they can get a commanding lead by halftime, they’re usually in good shape.

If they can’t, hot goaltending becomes a lot more important.

Luckily for Orchard View, goalie Megan McFarland was at her best when it mattered Wednesday. She delivered four or five huge saves in the second half, preserving a 1-1 tie with Ludington.

Then Kaylee Harrell and Brianna Wade each scored in overtime, giving Orchard View a 3-1 victory in Division 3 regional soccer action at Reeths-Puffer High School.

The Cardinals, now 14-4 on the season, advance to Saturday’s regional championship match against perennial state power Hudsonville Unity Christian. The winner of that game will qualify for the state semifinals.

Orchard View came into Wednesday’s game with a degree of confidence, having beaten Ludington twice in the regular season.

And for a while it looked like the Cardinals would make easy work of their Lakes 8 Conference rival.

But Orchard View’s sharpshooters had a frustrating first half, nailing shots against goal posts or kicking them inches over the net.

The Cardinal’s only goal came with 4:30 left in the first half when Rachael Darwin outraced a defender and scored on a breakaway.

The 1-0 halftime lead did not feel very comfortable to Orchard View coach Burt Wachter.

“We’re known as a first half team,” he said. “I don’t rotate a lot. We don’t have a great deal of depth (on the bench) and sometimes second-half fatigue sets in.”

Ludington seized the momentum in the second half and peppered McFarland with several strong shots.

But the Cardinal keeper only gave up one goal – to Ludington All-Stater Jacquelyn Lynch – so the game went to overtime.

McFarland totaled 12 saves in the game.

“She’s a getting some recognition for her outstanding play this season,” Wachter said of McFarland. “She makes really big plays. She had one against Oakridge (in Saturday’s 1-0 win in the district championship game) and shut them down. Tonight she did the same thing.”

Wachter said he challenged his players before the first and second overtime periods, and the Cardinals responded.

Harrell scored from close range two minutes into the first overtime, giving Orchard View a 3-2 lead. Then Wade added a goal in the second overtime, with an assist from Darwin, to seal the win for the Cardinals.

“I asked the girls (after regulation), who can give me ten minutes of 100 percent intensity, and all my players raised their hands,” Wachter said. “After the first overtime I asked them again, who can give me another ten, and all the hands went up.

“They were hungry. They knew they weren’t done. They wanted to redeem themselves, I think.”

Orchard View will get a chance to repay an old debt on Saturday. The Cardinals will face Hudsonville Unity Christian for the regional title at 3 p.m. at Reeths-Puffer High School.

Unity Christian defeated Orchard View in the state semifinals in 2011.

“I’d like to put a whole game together, not just a half,” Wachter said. “Halves are not going to do it against Unity Christian.”

Ludington finished the season 14-4. They were slowed a bitWednesday when Lynch, their leading scorer, came down with the flu and played sporadically.

“It was a great game between two evenly-matched teams,” said Ludington coach Kris Anderson. “That’s what you like to see.”