PLYMOUTH — Soccer coaches often worry about their teams’ prospects for beating a team twice in a short span, but Plymouth head coach Chuck DeWitt never did, not even when Culver Girls Academy went up early.
After the Lady Rockies’ narrow 1-0 victory over CGA in a rain-abbreviated sectional preview match in Culver last Thursday, DeWitt was confident his team could do it again in its sectional-opener Tuesday. The veteran coach’s Rockies didn’t let him down.
CGA put Plymouth on its heels early with a goal in the sixth minute, but the hosts never wavered, scoring three goals while shutting the Lady Eagles out over the game’s remaining 74-plus minutes in an eventual 3-1 Class 2A Plymouth Sectional quarterfinal win at Kindt Field.
The Rockies now advance to play another team they recently defeated in a semifinal match-up with NLC foe NorthWood Thursday tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m.
“I wasn’t worried about it. In fact, we came out of there with a win, which gave us confidence,” said DeWitt. “We knew we could play with them… We talked before the game, and I said ‘Girls, if we get down, don’t worry about it. That isn’t the scenario that I want, but if it happens we know that we can play out of it, we know that we can win.’”
DeWitt’s caveat proved prescient Tuesday. After the Eagles were shut out in their first match-up with Plymouth last week, Allison Baker broke through for the Eagles just over five minutes into Tuesday’s sectional rematch, dribbling in close and chipping up into the near upper 90 to give CGA an initial 1-0 advantage.
But the Rockies remained calm, and Courtney Hersick scored the equalizer some 10 minutes later with her own similar shot on an empty net situation in the 16th minute.
The senior striker notched the go-ahead with just under eight minutes remaining in the first half on a long though ball from midfielder Nicole Snare, and Plymouth took a tentative 2-1 lead into halftime. Hersick’s assist of Kaydon Fosler’s insurance goal in the 51st minute gave the Rockies some breathing room as she perfectly placed a corner kick near the CGA goal line, and Fosler volleyed it in off her body crashing the net to bring the score to its final margin.
Hersick’s heroics were much-needed for Plymouth after the Rockies lost the other half of their one-two punch when Allie Wright went down with a broken collarbone against NorthWood last week.
“Losing Allie Wright was a blow to all of us, first of all because she’s such a good young lady — she’s one of our captains, she’s a leader and she gives us everything she’s got all the time,” said DeWitt. “The good thing is we have depth on our bench, and we’re able to bring in players maybe not for 80 minutes but for 20, 40, 60 minutes and play just as well. With Courtney Hersick, I can’t say too much about her. She’s a senior, and these last five games she’s done what a senior does. She’s put the team on her back, she’s carried us, she’s done everything that she can to make sure that we win. She plays smart and she plays very, very hard all the time.”
“I felt that their key players took control of the game, and that was the difference — how clinical you were in front of the goal,” said CGA head coach Nathaniel King. “We had our chances. If we could’ve converted our chances I think the score line would have been a lot closer or maybe we would have edged it. But it came down to their goalie making big saves, and they scored the ball when they needed to.”
While Baker put herself in numerous dangerous situations in the first half, she was rarely in a position to threaten Plymouth in the second half. The Rockies’ halftime adjustments allowed only three shots on goal by CGA in the second half, and Baker and company eventually wore down in the season-ending loss.
“From our game last Thursday, we put four defenders back rather than three,” DeWitt explained. “That gave us an opportunity to play wider so that they weren’t getting those through runs on us like they did in the first game. At halftime what we did defensively was we moved those two outside defenders up about five yards so they were playing quicker and closer and we were able to transition the ball rather than playing flatter and having to play on our side.”
“I think maybe some of it was confidence. You have a mix of experience with new players, and sometimes you want more of those players who want to be the game-changers,” said King. “I felt it went both ways. We dropped off a bit and they attacked, but it came down to in that final third we didn’t have enough girls who wanted to take that responsibility.”
Plymouth improves to 10-7 and now advances to play NorthWood Thursday, just a week after the Rockies rallied back from a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Panthers 5-4 at home last Tuesday.
“To be honest, I thought we had the best draw in the tournament because we played Culver Academies and we’re familiar with a lot of their players and their style of play; we played NorthWood just a week ago,” said DeWitt. “They know they can’t back away from us. We came back from a 4-1 deficit without our second-leading scorer. So they’re going to be more cautious and we’re going to be more aggressive because we feel that we can win the game, and that’s what we’re going to go out and do.”
CGA closes out its season at 6-9-2, meanwhile, and will have to bid goodbye to a deep cast of nine seniors.
“I can’t be disappointed with the girls. We gave it everything. I think Plymouth would admit that we had them on the ropes a few times, they had us on the ropes; it was a back-and-forth game,” said King.
“It’s going to be tough to replace our seniors. The season, the story of our life has been we have shown what we were capable of, and it was just the clinical — having that final, converting those chances. I think we worked hard, played some good soccer, played good teams, but where it counted we just couldn’t really get the edge in the final third. But I’m pleased with the girls. Any team that played us would say we’re a good team. I’m proud of them. We finished on a high note. That’s all you can ask of your team — give your best effort and see what happens.”
• PLYMOUTH 3,
CULVER GIRLS ACADEMY 1
At Class 2A Plymouth Sectional
CGA — Allison Baker, 6th minute
P — Courtney Hersick, 16th minute
P — Hersick (Nicole Snare), 33rd minute
P — Kaydon Fosler (Hersick), 51st minute
Shots on goal: Plymouth 7, CGA 9
Saves: Plymouth 8 (Katie Berg), CGA (Elisabeth Strati) 9
Corners: Plymouth 5, CGA 1
Records: Plymouth 10-7, CGA 6-9-2