By Justin Haggerty
NORTON SHORES – Mona Shores hired a new girls’ soccer coach this season, and he’s yet to experience a loss.
Entering Thursday’s game, Coach Dylan Darga had the Sailors sporting a perfect 15-0 record, with a 9-0 mark in the O-K Black Conference.
Mona Shores had a chance to maintain that sparkling record, and clinch at least a tie for the conference championship. But first the Sailors had to get past a good Reeths-Puffer squad, which has won the last three O-K Black titles.
R-P put up a good fight, but the Sailors kept their streak intact with a 3-0 victory on Senior Night on their home field.
Mona Shores goalkeeper Megan Swanker broke the school record with her 12th career shutout in the process. Forward Sarah Mikesell tied the single-season school record with her 28th goal.
Mona Shores has two more conference games remaining, at Grand Rapids Union and Kenowa Hills. A victory in either game will give the Sailors the outright league title. That seems pretty likely, since they outscored those teams by a combined 15-0 the first time around this season.
Reeths-Puffer fell to 12-4-2 overall and 8-2 in the O-K Black.
“This has always been a rivalry, it was a good community event,” Darga said about the game. “It was good to see all the people out. It got a little chippy at times, but you expect that in games like this.
“Hats off to them, I really think they’re going to be a dangerous team going forward. I’m glad we don’t have to see them again.”
Neither team was able to capitalize in a very physical first half.
The tide started shifting in the Sailors’ direction early in the second half when they were whistled for a foul in the Reeths-Puffer box. The Rockets were rewarded with an indirect kick instead of a penalty kick, which did not please R-P Coach Jeremy Tjapkes.
“They clearly took one of our girls down,” he said. “(The referee) should have called the PK, but he decided not to in a big game.”
R-P failed to capitalize on that opportunity, and seconds later the powerful Mona Shores offense was off to the races.
Mikesell lofted a ball down the center of the field for Raegan Cox, who stayed onside and fired a shot past Reeths-Puffer goalkeeper Elysia Mattos to put the Sailors up 1-0 with 25:45 to play.
The Sailors nearly extended their lead five minutes later. Peyton Erndteman centered the ball from right wing to Mikesell, but Mattos made a diving save, then somehow stopped Mieke Hart on the rebound.
Mikesell got another chance with just under 14 minutes remaining and made it count, putting Mona Shores up 2-0.
The Sailors capped the scoring with 6:10 left on the clock when Mikesell passed to sophomore Nora Brown, who beat a defender and hit the top left corner of the net.
“We’re a high-power offense,” Darga said. “We struggled at times to find looks, find shots. But it was just a matter of time. Once we (scored) they’ve got to push numbers forward, and that’s when we expose that.”
Tjapkes, whose team lost its leading scorer to a preseason injury, said the Rockets still need more offense.
“We have our opportunities, but we just don’t have that player right now that’s stepping up and hitting game-winning goals for us,” the coach said. “We’re still waiting for that someone to step up. Who knows who it will be.
“I hope we find out soon, we’re running out of time.”