Lions Bow Out to Cards in CSAA Final
Photos and story by Alexis Mercer
This rematch from a week ago between the Newaygo Lions and the Big Rapids Cardinals would bring the Lions to Cardinal Country - kind of. Because of Big Rapids's renovations of the facilities, the team is playing on Ferris's field for the season. Turf field. Which puts a different spin on the game - or more specifically the ball.
The Lions are nothing but determined so they started off strong with most minutes being played at the midfield with neither team breaking through. It wasn't until 9 and a half minutes in when Big Rapids's #21 took advantage of the wind and found the top right hand corner of the net, putting the Cardinals up 1-0.
Not too many minutes later, an aggressive Lion defender committed a penalty in the box resulting in a penalty kick for BR - and a 2-0 lead.
But the Lions weren't giving in so easily. A skilled transition from defense to the midfielders created space which led to BR scrambling and kicking the ball out of bounds. Grace Painter teed up a beautiful corner kick for exchange student Alexandra Son and Newaygo was back in the game with their own goal.
The heat and humidity played in the Cardinals' favor with many more subs able to come off the bench to provide quality minutes. In such an intense and quick game, those breaks made a difference.
It was a quick break for the Big Rapids offense that led to a desperate attempt by a Lion defender to kick the ball out the back of the field, but instead the ball found its way in the net. The Cardinals were up 3-1.
And with 6:13 left in the game, Big Rapids sealed the deal with one final goal, ending at 4-1 in their favor and a CSAA Gold Championship trophy on their home field to celebrate with their fans.
Coach Matt Painter said of the game: "I felt our girls played really well tonight. We improved from the last matchup and possessed the ball through the Cardinals' lines, creating scoring opportunities. I was really proud of how we moved the ball, especially in the first half."