By Aaron McClorey

MUSKEGON – Even soccer teams that muster enough offense need a goalie who can be there at crunch time.

The Muskegon Risers women’s squad has had that type of goalie all season. She was just waiting for the offense to catch up and do its part, so the team could start winning some games.

Muskegon’s Breanna Musser battles for the ball close to the Steel City net. Photo/Leo Valdez

That happened on Saturday, when four different Risers scored to lead the team to its first victory of the season, 4-2 over the Steel City Football Club at Muskegon Catholic Central’s Kehren Stadium.

But in the end, it was goalie Erika Gabriel who stepped up to preserve the victory, making a big save on a breakaway in the first half, and two huge saves in the last 16 minutes, to preserve the inaugural victory.

It was Gabriel’s third straight strong performance. She also played well in two of the three previous Risers’ losses, which were by scores of 2-1 and 3-2.

The Risers are now 1-3 on the season in the United Women’s Soccer League season. They will host Detroit City FC next Saturday night.

“Erika has been pivotal for us, showing up big in every game we’ve had,” said Risers co-coach Debbie Pekel. “We’re trying to give her more support so we don’t have to rely on her, but we know we can in a tight situation. We’re very pleased with her performance, game in and game out.”

The game did not start out promising for Muskegon.

Just over five minutes into the contest, Steel City scored to go up 1-0, and fans must have been wondering of the Risers were headed toward another tough night. But after that goal, the Risers managed to keep control of the play for a long segment of the first half, which led to several goals.

Kandis Orns found the mark with 32:34 left in the first half to tie the score 1-1. After more time on the attack, Rylee Vruggink scored off a rebound to give the Risers their first lead of the game.

With 7:25 left in the first half, Muskegon’s Hannah Henney scored on a penalty shot to make it 3-1. Steel City was able to get a breakaway with about a minute to go

Risers forward Credence White sends a shot on goal. Photo/Leo Valdez

in the half, but it was saved by Gabriel, and the Risers went to halftime with a promising two-goal lead.

“We’ve been focusing on keeping possession of the ball a lot in the past few weeks, building off those previous losses.” Pekel said.

The second half started out the same way, with the Risers connecting on their passes and stopping breakouts from Steel City. The visitors did manage to scoffed on a header with 31 minutes left to pull within one goal.

But four minutes later Muskegon’s Brenna Musser fired a laser shot that went just inside the top left corner of the net to put the Risers up 4-2.

Gabriel was at her best in goal down the stretch, when Steel City turned up the pressure and pressed to get back into the game. One shot was a top-shelfer that was saved beautifully by Gabriel with 16 minutes to go. With about five minutes left, Steel City hit the post with a shot, before before Gabriel once again had a magnificent save, almost identical to the one she had earlier, with 90 seconds to go.

After that save, the Risers got down the field, hitting the post on a shot with just over a minute to go before killing out the clock to end the game.