D3 SOCCER: Grand Rapids South Christian ‘parks the bus’ again in title game vs. Essexville-Garber, finishing unscored-upon run to title
EAST LANSING — Annika Zuverink has a nickname for Grand Rapids South Christian’s defense.
“I tell them to ‘park the bus,” smiled Zuverink, South Christian’s senior goalkeeper. “They mean so much to this team. They do an amazing job. I trust them more than anything.”
South Christian’s defense must have seemed like a parked bus in front of the Sailors’ goal all season. The backfield yielded only eight goals all season over 26 games and was sterling in the Division 3 state tournament.
The Sailors did not surrender a goal in seven tournament games — a 23-0 scoring edge — which culminated in fifth-ranked South Christian posting a 3-0 shutout of seventh-ranked and previously-unbeaten Essexville-Garber in the MHSAA Division 3 state finals at Michigan State University’s DeMartin Stadium.
“Our defense was amazing, we kept the pressure on them and didn’t give up the whole game and it was a great effort or so,” smiled South Christian sixth-year head coach Brian Broekhuizen. “It’s amazing to come in here and win the state championship the way we did. We were a hard team to score upon.”
It marked the 100th win at South Christian for Broekhuizen, who was an assistant with the Sailors on the school’s 2013 state championship team.
“Our back three is like a wall back there,” said Broekhuizen, who ATTRIBB his team’s success to incredible team defense, especially the backline of Morgan Rottman, Sydney Cleary and Cierra Gabrielse. “At the beginning of the season, I asked ‘who are defenders were,’ and everyone should have raised their hands. We work on defending from the front to the back. Forwards cut the field in half, midfielders pressuring and covering, and the back covering, tackling and winning headers. It’s a defensive effort, and now they know defense really wins championships — it’s really a team defensive minded effort. We let everyone know that defense really does win championships.”
The Sailors were rarely threatened in ending the season the way it began — with a shutout. And only two teams were able to score two goals in a game against one of Michigan’s top defenses.
With three wins four wins over schools that were ranked this season, the Sailors found plenty of offense in the finals. South Christian (20-3-3) scored on its third attempt of the game, which proved to be the game-winner. From the right side of the field, senior Sydney Cleary laced a 30-yard free kick that was volleyed home by senior Joz VanTol with 23:25 to play.
Zuverink, who played 70 minutes between the pipes and shared the shutout with sophomore Taylor Newhof — the school’s 20th clean sheet of the campaign — and combined for just five saves.
The Sailors struck again with 2:37 remaining before the half. Freshman Grace Wieneke’s bending cornerkick bounced six yards in front of the goal and junior Emma DeVries knocked it in from close range with 2:37 left in the first half.
DeVries capped the scoring with 33:18 to play when VanTol slotted a cross into the penalty box and DeVries tapped it in from seven yards out.
South posted a 15-8 total shots edge, including 6-5 with shots on frame, and even held a 7-0 advantage on cornerkicks.
Essexville-Garber (22-1-2) became the first school from Bay County to ever win a regional title and reach the Final Four. The Dukes upset second-ranked and heavily-favored Warren Regina in the semifinals (1-0) three days earlier, but could not find the same magic against the Sailors.
Essexville-Garber head coach Troy Stewart said the physicality of South Christian was something his team hadn’t seen this season.
“We don’t play the teams they do,” offered Stewart, who is retiring from coaching after 15 seasons with the Dukes. “We didn’t know the physicality was going to be like that and we weren’t prepared, and that’s on us as coaches. We probably should’ve come over here and seen a few games. We learned a lesson.
“We had an an amazing run,” continued Stewart. “We set all kinds of Bay County records and school records and got further than any other team from our area. I don’t think many people felt that we would be here playing in the state championship game. I’m proud of everything that they accomplished.”