By Aaron Poling

FREMONT–The Whitehall girls soccer team found its stride toward the end of the regular season, and strung together some nice victories.

They had won five of their last six games, putting them in a position to play Big Rapids for a district championship on Friday night.

Unfortunately for Whitehall, the hot streak ended there. A pair of Big Rapids goals on penalty kicks sunk the Vikings, who fell 3-0 in the Division 2 finals at Fremont High School.

Tori Russell jumps up to control the possession for Whitehall. Photo/Leo Valdez

“It’s frustrating when PK’s make a difference,” said Whitehall Coach Dan Nichols after the game. “I thought we were frustrating their best players. We had their players tired, and I think we were better in the first half. The two PK’s were kind of our downfall.”

The game was scoreless until late in the first half. A handball was called against Whitehall in the box, giving the Cardinals a penalty kick. Julia Waltz stepped up to the ball and converted with 1:24 left on the clock, giving Big Rapids a 1-0 halftime lead.

The Cardinals were awarded another penalty kick about a minute and a half into the second half, and again Waltz hit the mark, putting Big Rapids up by two.

Kyra Couch scored the Cardinals’ final goal with 33:10 left in the game. 

Despite the loss, Whitehall played really well to end the season. In their last five wins, the Vikings outscored their opponents 27-2. That’s pretty good for a team that started the season with a 4-5 record.

Whitehall’s No. 7 Ali Hennessy gets position to keep control of the ball. Photo/Leo Valdez

“I was telling the girls all along that it says a lot about their character,” Coach Nichols said about his team’s improvement. “It would have been easy for them to give up, but they really came together. We were talking about their character and heart after the game.” 

There is reason for the Vikings to be optimistic about next season. Maggie Evans, only a junior, will return after recently becoming the school’s all-time leading goal scorer.   Evans lost her sophomore season to the COVID-19 pandemic, making the feat even more impressive.

“The one nice thing is we have several younger players,” Nichols said. “We have two of our best players in Ryleigh (Mott) and Maggie (Evans) coming back, so we have a chance to rebuild.”