Flint Powers, a finalist in 2016, defeats Freeland, 4-0, in Division 3 final
Williamston — Rachel Phillpotts remembers the agony of riding home from East Lansing last June, an empty feeling in the pit of her stomach.
Phillpotts and Flint Powers lost in the Division 3 state championship to Hudsonville Unity Christian, 2-0, despite holding a 17-3 shots advantage in that contest, one the Chargers dominated.
Entering the 2017 season as the top-ranked team, Powers ran the tables as the No. 1 squad this year, capping the campaign with a resounding 4-0 shutout of third-ranked Freeland at the Williamston Soccer Complex.
“It was definitely on our mind,” Phillpotts said.
Phillpotts is the Chargers’ most highly-rated player and central defender who aided 15 shutouts this season.
“We didn’t like that feeling, losing last year,” added Phillpotts, whose older sister, Emma, was on Powers’ 2011 state title team. “We had some pressure this year being No. 1 in the state. We wanted to win the state title this season more than anything.”
Led by 12 seniors, Powers (26-1-2) glided through the state tournament with a 31-2 scoring edge in seven games.
“That was rough last season. We dominated that game and still lost,” noted Powers coach Art Moody, whose program is now 2-6 in state title matches. “We gained some valuable experience and I thought we dominated again this time.
“We play Powers soccer. We play possession. We play direct. We use our speed. We kind of mix it all around and it works. I thought our defense was strong all season long. They didn’t give up very many chances (in the finals) at all.”
Powers took a 1-0 lead on its first shot on goal. Following a free kick from sophomore Rachel Rasin, the ball bounced around the penalty area before freshman Kennedy Myers tucked in a shot with 30:18 to play in the first half.
Myers pushed the lead to 2-0 with 19:05 remaining in the first half, a half that had the Chargers holding an 11-3 edge in shots. After her initial shot down the right side was blocked, she blasted home the rebound.
Powers made it 3-0 less than two minutes later. Following a long throw in, the ball stayed in the penalty box before senior Emilie Pechette cashed in on a close-range shot with 17:31 left before the break.
Powers outshot Freeland 13-6 overall, including 9-3 with shots directly on frame. The Chargers capped the scoring with 20:25 left to play, when senior Gabrielle Amato headed in a corner kick from senior Sophia Dubiel.
“I think the girls wanted Unity Christian after what happened last season,” said Moody. “When we saw it was Freeland, we knew they were good. We did a great job attacking their defense, going after their defenders 1-v-1 and creating chances. Scoring those three goals in the first half I think deflated them a little bit.”
Freeland lost in the semifinals the past three years, including the previous two to Unity Christian, which has won 10 state titles over the past 13 seasons.
The Falcons slipped past Unity Christian, 3-2, in this year’s semifinals, but that victory came with a cost.
Senior Jessica Piper, one of Freeland’s top players, suffered a serious knee injury with 48 seconds left in that semifinal. Powers bottled up Freeland’s Michelle Herring (Michigan State) and leading goal scorer Mackenzie Stroebel, limiting the Falcons to only three shot attempts.
“That hurt. When you lose one of your playmakers who is also very good defensively, it changes the way you play,” said Freeland coach Lauren Kemerer. “We struggled to get into any type of a flow. Credit Powers’ defense for that.
“I’m proud of our girls. Our goal this year was to take the next step and get past Unity (Christian). We were able to do that and play in the state finals for the first time,” added Kemerer. “We went out there and gave it our best. That’s all we can ask of them. We lost to a very talented team.”
Powers freshman Natalie Deitering picked up three saves for the clean sheet.