By Craig Beilfuss
BIG RAPIDS—After winning its first girls soccer district championship last week, Newaygo was looking to take the step step in the Division 3 regional semifinals on Tuesday.
However, the Lions ran into an experienced Elk Rapids Elks team that was dominant, and in control, from start to finish. The Lions fell, 4-0.
The Lions had few shot attempts and didn’t have any defensive answer for Elk Rapids junior Lauren Bingham, who pulled off the hat-trick in scoring three consecutive goals in the first half.
The Elks scored the first goal at the 29:21 mark of the first half as sophomore Kendall Standfest found the net from short range.
From that point on, Bingham took over, along with the Elk Rapids back line as they shut down Newaygo from any scoring opportunities.
Bingham scored three straight goals for the Elks to close out the first half.
The junior sensation scored a goal with 25:24 remaining in the half. It wouldn’t take long for her to connect again as she scored with 23:53 left in the half. Bingham scored her third goal at the 9:25 mark of the first half to close out the scoring for the day.
With the win, the Elks (17-2) now advance to the regional final game on Thursday evening against Grand Rapids Catholic Central, which defeated host Big Rapids 2-0 in the nightcap.
Newaygo finishes the season with a 16-4-1 record and a district championship. Lions head coach Matt Painter took a few moments to reflect on both the game and the season.
“Elk Rapids is a really, really good team,” Painter said. “They are very well skilled from the top to bottom. We knew coming in, based upon their team record of some of their scores, that it was going to be touch matchup for us. They are a great team.
“I was very proud of our girls,” Painter said. “I thought they did really, really well, especially considering I don’t think anybody was expecting us to do as well as we did this season. Just being here at the regionals was an honor.”
Painter pointed out that not long ago Newaygo was the laughingstock of the conference and the past 2 years have seen a major turnaround with finishes near the top of the league.
Playing in their final game for Newaygo were seniors Laura Haavisto, Viktoria Ringh, Claudia Lautao, Filippa Hoilmark, Jaxi Long and Johanna Bartsch.