By Mitchell Boatman
HOLLAND – For the first time in 10 years, the Mona Shores soccer team is headed to regionals.
“It feels really good,” said Mona Shores head coach Dylan Darga, who is in his first year with the Sailors. “The girls have worked hard all year long.
“One of our goals that we had this year was to be conference champs and district champs. You can see it in their eyes; they’re excited.”
Mona Shores, now 21-0 on the season, will play either Rockford or Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central in regional semifinals Tuesday at Portage Central High School at 1 p.m.
Darga knows a challenge lies ahead, but is optimistic about his team’s chances of advancing.
“Both are powerhouses, we just have to be ready,” he said about Rockford and Forest Hills Central. “Either way we’re going to have a quality opponent.
“We’ll continue to work hard and hopefully get some results.”
The Sailors put the pressure on Grand Haven right from the beginning, but lost several scoring chances to offside calls. In total, Mona Shores was called offsides 12 times.
“You want to keep that high line, you want to keep people pressing forward,” Darga said. “We do have to be smarter about it, though. It was a little bit too much.”
The Sailors finally capitalized in the 22nd minute of the first half when Peyton Erndtman found the back of the net after teammate Raegan Cox’s shot hit off the post.
The Sailors added a second goal three minutes before halftime when Sarah Mikesell snuck one past Grand Haven keeper Jordanne Ellingboe.
The score was 2-0 at halftime.
Both teams came out strong defensively in the second half, and nobody scored for the first 32 minutes.
The Sailors finally broke through with 7:54 to play when Mikesell fired one past the keeper with an assist from Erin Powers.
Grand Haven didn’t go down without a fight, though.
Alli Keyser got the Bucs on the board with 2:22 remaining and drew a penalty kick just 37 seconds later. With a chance to draw within one, Keyser’s shot deflected off the post and the Grand Haven threat was quieted.
“We tried to make it interesting at the end there,” Darga said. “We got kind of comfortable. We weren’t working as hard as we should have. If you give up for a second, it doesn’t matter how many goals you’re up, that stuff can happen.”
Grand Haven finished the season with a 5-12-1 record.