D4 SOCCER FINALS: Royal Oak Shrine beats Kalamazoo Christian to claim program’s first soccer title, school’s first state title in 45 years
EAST LANSING — Chloe Woodbeck raced over to her soccer coach Mark Soma Saturday afternoon and whispered in his year, ‘“you are right.”
Woodbeck, a senior at Royal Oak Shrine Catholic, opted to come out for high school soccer for a first time back in early March and play for her school, which was expected to been one of the better Division 4 teams in the state this season.
Woodbeck exits the high school ranks with not just her diploma, but leading Shrine to its first Division 4 state championship in girls soccer.
Second-ranked Shrine upended fourth-ranked Kalamazoo Christian, 4-0, in the Division 4 state finals at Michigan State University’s DeMartin Stadium in a dominating effort.
It was the first-ever season the Knights even won a district let alone made a deep postseason run. It also became the school’s first state title in any sport since 1974 — some 45 years ago.
“I was texting back and forth with (Woodbeck) before the season and I told her, ‘if you come out we’ll win the state championship,’” smiled Soma. “She came over to me right after the game and told me that I was right.”
Woodbeck, who signed with Purdue, spent her freshmen and sophomore seasons playing for the Michigan Hawks 10-month ECNL club team, while she was on the Hawks US Developmental Academy roster as a junior.
“My coach had talked to me about coming out and I was like ‘Oh, we’ll see’. He really thought we could win a state championship,” smiled Woodbeck, who was also the D-4 state runner-up in the high jump two weeks earlier at 5-foot-2 for a team that finished fourth. “It worked out that this was the first time I could play high school soccer and I am glad I did. My coach felt we could win the state championship and he was right.”
Junior Allison LaPointe, a standout with her Vardar ECNL club team who recently committed to Central Michigan, was sterling between the pipes. She made four saves, but two diving stops against the high-powered Comets, who were making their third straight state finals appearance and had outscored its previous six postseason opponents by a 33-1 margin.
Shrine (21-1-0) outscored its seven postseason foes by a commanding 38-1 margin — 98-8 for the entire season over 23 games — and allowed just one goal in the pre-district, a 6-1 victory over 12-time state champion Madison Heights Bishop Foley Catholic.
“We’ve had some good teams over the years, but we have never been able to get out of our district,” said Soma. “I knew that we could be very good this year and having Chloe (Woodbeck) sure helped. I think all of the pieces were here for us to make a run.
“I can’t explain in words how this feels,” added Soma. “It’s been a long time for our school to win a state championship in anything.”
Shrine outshot Kalamazoo Christian, 15-9, including 8-4 with shots on frame, and even held a narrow 2-1 edge on corner kicks. Four of those eight shots on frame reached the back of the net.
It was Woodbeck that scored first with 24:11 to go in the first half. Following a foul on the left side of the field, Woodbeck laced a laser-type, 30-yard free kick that sailed high and into the netting near the upper 90 of the net by the far post.
The Knights planted two shots on frame in the first half and the other also resulted in a goal. Junior Lilly Hotts finished off a long cross by junior Jess Resume at the 13:23 mark of the first half.
Hotts set up the third marker with 21:58 to play, cutting back in the corner of the box and sending a cross over to Bridgette Drouillard, who converted the opportunity from six yards out with 21:58 still to play.
Junior Regan Robinson capped the scoring in the 70th minute when she picked up a shot pass from Drouillard and uncorked a high 35-yard rifle that sailed high into the net with 10:24 remaining.
Kalamazoo Christian reached the D-4 state finals for the eight time in 15 years and was coming off a 1-0 victory over top-ranked North Muskegon in the semifinals — the Comets beat No. 1 North Muskegon in the Final Four two years in a row — but could not find any magic against one of the state’s better goalkeepers and team defenses.
“This (loss) was tough because we worked hard ever since the offseason and Day 1 when they came in conditioning over the winter. Our goal was to be playing here again today,” offered Kalamazoo Christian coach Jay Allen. “We knew what we had to do. But No. 22 (Woodbeck) snuck that one early on us and we just could not recover. My seniors left it on the field today. We were just that one pass, one play away from tying the game and making it close. If we tie it or cut it down to 2-1 it could be a different game. But they are a very good team and their goalie was phenomenal back there.”