Lumen Christi claims first girls soccer state title on penalty kick shootout

Jackson Lumen Christi teammates surround goalkeeper Izzy Ermatinger after she stopped three out of four penalty kicks and earn the Titans their first girls’ soccer state championship over Kalamazoo Christian. (Photos by Wright Wilson | Special to Detroit Catholic)

Marian falls, 1-0, in quest for 10th overall championship

EAST LANSING – For a goalkeeper, having a game going to a shootout is hardly a dream come true. In fact, it’s more like nightmare fuel.

But here was Jackson Lumen Christi senior Izzy Ermatinger ─ playing in her first shootout ever ─ facing Kalamazoo Christian’s best strikers after an overtime period failed to produce a winner the MHSAA Division 4 state championship game, and the score tied 1-1.

It’s safe to say the outcome was beyond Ermatinger’s wildest dreams. She turned away three out of four Kalamazoo Christian shots, while Lumen Christi scored on three out of four its attempts, to win its first state soccer championship in school history Friday afternoon at Michigan State University’s DeMartin Soccer Complex.

Ermatinger said “just staying calm” is how she dealt with the pressure.

“I kind of knew; I got an idea where some of them would kick it from their shots earlier in the game so I just went with it and did it that way,” she said, “and it just helps when you stay calm and not get too overwhelmed because then you’ll just mess them up.”

Brooke Lefere rushes to join Paityn Petitto, Paige Lefere, Kathleen Doane and Izzy Ematinger in on on-field celebration at the end of the shoot-out round.
Brooke Lefere rushes to join Paityn Petitto, Paige Lefere, Kathleen Doane and Izzy Ematinger in on on-field celebration at the end of the shoot-out round.

One reason Ematinger’s confidence was up was because she got the advantage even before facing the Comets’ first shooter. Ematinger took the Titans’ first penalty kick, and drilled it into the upper left corner.

“During practice when we did it I was also the first, and I just think that’s the easiest way to do it because you just get the momentum going,” she said.

Ematinger then saved the first two Kalamazoo Christian shots by catching a line drive to her right, and punching away a ground ball to the same side. During that stretch, teammates Paige Lefere (ground ball left) and Paityn Petitto (waist-high right) were successful on their attempts.

When Ematinger blocked the Comets’ fourth shooter’s waist-high attempt to the left, it was game over, touching off a celebration in the goal box.

“We’ve worked on penalty kicks every single day for the last 10 minutes of practice for the last two months, and that’s ‘just in case.’” Coach Blake Newman-Gillig said. “I want them to feel prepared, I want them to feel like they’ve done it a million times, and I think that it paid off today.”

Lumen Christi (14-7-0) opened the scoring, getting its lone regulation goal just 3:52 after the start of the contest. Although Kalamazoo Christian had kept the ball in the Titans’ end, Petitto got a ball on a turnover, fired a long pass upfield toward Codi Ruge, who outran two defenders to approach the goal from the right side and beat the goalkeeper top-center, shocking the Comets.

“It shocked me a little bit too, because it happened so fast,” Newman-Gillig said. “I thought we’d start out a little bit slower just because of nerves and this is the first time this team’s ever been in this game in 24 years. Yeah, that definitely caught them off-guard and they had to make some adjustments pretty quick to match what we were trying to do.”

The play was reminiscent of how Lumen Christi was able to take advantage in several playoff contests, including a regional-final rematch against Catholic League rival Royal Oak Shrine.

“We’re really good on transition, so we made a few teams pay for that throughout the year, especially in the post-season,” Newman-Gillig said. “We have two very fast, athletic wingers and our center mids are very aware of that. It makes a really big difference to have that speed out wide, and to use that to our advantage as much as possible.”

Kalamazoo Christian got the equalizer 1:19 into the second half when Ari Allen took a feed inside the goal box from Phoebe Zehl, but the Titan defense was able to stand strong over the final 58 minutes of play.

“I think (getting the first goal) helped us get confident really early on and have the strength to finish the game off,” Ematinger said. “When they scored and made it even, we had the strength to try and fight back so they didn’t score again.”

The outcome was somewhat surprising because Kalamazoo Christian was the defending state champions (defeating Clarkston Everest Collegiate/Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart last year), and the Comets controlled the run of play throughout the afternoon.

Sixth-ranked Christian (18-5-2) outshot Lumen Christi 21-7, including 7-1 in the 20-minute overtime. The Comets also held a 6-3 edge in corner kicks.

Lumen Christi captain Kathleen Doane tries to prevent Kalamazoo Christian’s Emily Gorton from advancing the ball.
Lumen Christi captain Kathleen Doane tries to prevent Kalamazoo Christian’s Emily Gorton from advancing the ball.

Besides, unranked Lumen Christi (14-7-0) won just two of its eight games this spring in its first season in the Catholic League before catching fire in the post-season, defeating its seven playoff opponents by a combined score of 24-2.

“Yes, I want to win every game, but it’s not that possible when you’re playing a challenging schedule to implement that right away,” Newman-Gillig said. “I just tried to work with them and say our eyes are on the end of the season, that’s what our focus is on, so being exposed early on by those tough teams is going to be good for us when we get to the post-season, and that also paid off today.”

“We played hard teams throughout the season and it really helped us get to this point and prepare for this game,” Ematinger said. “I don’t think we’re an underdog, because all season we’ve been good, and those rankings don’t matter all that much, because we just beat them.”

Marian falls in Division 2 title game by a single goal

A teammate gives some much-needed liquid refreshment to Birmingham Marian’s Bella Musachio during a second-half timeout of the MHSAA Division 2 soccer championship game.
A teammate gives some much-needed liquid refreshment to Birmingham Marian’s Bella Musachio during a second-half timeout of the MHSAA Division 2 soccer championship game.

It didn’t seem to be a good omen when the only postseason goal Birmingham Marian allowed came at 13 minutes, 13 seconds of the MHSAA Division 2 championship final.

Spring Lake’s Ella Andree got the ball in the corner and lofted a shot toward the Mustangs’ net. Goalkeeper Dani Mertz got a piece of it, but couldn’t prevent the Lakers’ Aveya Patino from pouncing on the rebound and collect her 29th goal of the year.

That play was unlucky for Marian, as Spring Lake went on to win its first state championship with a 1-0 victory.

“It’s just unfortunate that we conceded that goal,” said Marian’s first-year head coach, Danny Price. “It started in the middle with a little mistake in the end, but Patino’s been doing that all season, scoring goals, so we gave her time in the box to shoot, and we got punished.”

The tally put the Mustangs in an unfamiliar state.

“I said to them at halftime, we’ve not been in this situation before,” Price said. “We’ve been ahead in every single game that we’ve played this season and we’ve defended well, and we’ve not had to come from behind, and it was hard to do that.”

Marian couldn’t make any headway in the final 40 minutes because Spring Lake (17-2-5) shored up its defense after getting the lead.

“In the second half they dropped five, six players behind the ball and whacked it forward. It wasn’t real pretty soccer, but we tried to put them under pressure,” Price said. “Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try or whether you’re the best team with the ball at your feet. Sometimes you get beat, and that’s OK, we’ll learn from it.”

Agatha Valka, Olivia Zahnow, Madeline Stenger and Mertz were the only seniors on Marian’s 24-girl roster, so the Mustangs have a good corps returning next season.

“It’s a young team, a developing team,” Price said. “It won’t be our last time back here -- we’ll be back.”



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