Lions to challenge Cards for CSAA Tourney Title
Photos by Tara Hefferan
Newaygo at Big Rapids, Friday 5pm
Just a week ago the Lions soccer squad traveled north and saw their undefeated record come to an end against conference rival Big Rapids in a match that determined the conference title. The Cardinal squad is deep and experienced. They shook off a loss to #1 ranked D4 powerhouse Calvin Christian a month ago and have been undefeated since, yielding but a single goal in the process.
The strength of the Big Rapids game is their ability to control the tempo and keep the ball on the opponent's side of the field and they did that against the Lions last week constantly pressuring the Newaygo defense.
The Lions have put together a splendid season piling up wins with collaborative combination of youth and experience, a staunch defense, effective ball control and a team camaraderie that reveals the familiarity the players have with each other. They are a spirited group who have embraced the opportunity to take to the field after the cancellation of last year's season and reeled off a sterling record this Spring with the only blemish the loss to the Cards. And the only way to get another shot at BR was to march through the tournament and hope the redbirds did the same so the two talented teams could meet in the finals.
This week these teams have kept an eye on each other as both have taken down opponents in the tourney to get to this game. Newaygo ran past Chip Hills and went to shootout after a pair of overtimes to sink the Vikings of TC. The Cardinals swept past Lakeview then ran into a determined Reed City defense to advance with a 1-0 win, though the BR team spent the vast majority of the game on the Coyote side of the field.
Can the Lions thwart the game management expertise of the Cardas? Can they capitalize on the scoring opportunities that may be few and far between?
The Lion defense has been stellar all season and Toth has shined in goal. Offensively Painter. Long, and Son have been the top scorers. But overall this is a team that communicates well and the aforementioned familiarity allows them to anticipate trouble as well as opportunity.
The Lions will have to bring their A game to Big Rapids Friday. They will need to keep the Cards from dominating possession and can't afford to miss scoring chances when they come.
But make no mistake this Lion team does not take losing lightly and would like nothing more than to enter next week’s state tournament carrying a bit of revenge hardware.