By Adam Trombley
NORTH MUSKEGON – They say it’s true that good things come to those who wait, and the Ravenna girls soccer team sure made the Western Michigan Christian Warriors wait longer than they expected for a district tournament victory on Tuesday night.
The game looked to be all but done with less than 10 minutes left in regulation, with WMC holding a 2-0 lead. But Ravenna refused to quit and scored twice in a three-minute span to force overtime in a first-round Division 3 district contest.’
But the Warriors regained their advantage early in OT with a goal from sophomore Allison Oppenhuizen, and WMC escaped with an exciting 3-2 victory at North Muskegon High School and a berth in the district finals.
The Warriors will face North Muskegon on Friday at 6 p.m. in the championship game.
First-year WMC Coach Kevin Butler was proud of his girls for hanging tough and pulling out the win. While two goals from Natalie Riksen, excellent goaltending and great play from the midfielders was obvious, he credited the effort from the entire team.
“It’s not just a slogan for us, we’ve been talking about our motto this entire year, which has been ‘one team,’ and if there’s anything that we saw today, it was that,” Butler said. “While you have Natalie getting a couple of goals, the reason that happened was because of all the support behind her, and so I thought, top to bottom, this was probably one of the best team performances we’ve had.”
The Warriors outshot Ravenna 22-9 and were able to keep the ball in their opponents’ side of the field for much of the game.
Riksen scored with 1:07 left in the first half and early in the second half to give the Warriors a 2-0 lead.
When Ravenna did mount an attack, WMC goalie Elizabeth Mast was generally in control, making seven timely saves.
The Bulldogs, however, made it interesting late in regulation. Kaylyn Eden scored off a deflection with 7:02 left in the second half and again on a penalty kick with 5:20 seconds left to tie the score and force overtime.
Ravenna finished the season with a 10-11 record. Coach Keith Marsman said he was happy with how his girls battled until the end, and how they plan to improve next season with a lot of players returning.
“It was good to see them fight all the way to the end for a full 100 minutes, 20 minutes longer than we’ve had to fight all season long,” he said. “We are really looking to build on that freshman and sophomore group, considering that sophomore group didn’t have a season last year, so in essence it was like having one senior, four juniors, and all freshmen this year because it was their first year on varsity.”
WMC improved to 10-6-1, but most now find a way to beat state-ranked North Muskegon, which has been plowing past most of its opponents all season.
“It’s still a game, with 22 players on a field and a ball,” Butler said. “If we just scale this thing back and play our brand of soccer, continue to work and play the way we have been all season, then we’re confident we’ll find success.”