Gull Lake edges Fenton on penalty kicks, wins third consecutive Division 2 title, 1-0
East Lansing – Annie Walbridge admits that there isn’t much rhyme nor reason to her method of attempting a penalty kick.
“I just go right and kick it as hard as I can,” said the Richland Gull Lake senior defender. “I don’t have much of a plan other than that.”
Nevertheless, Walbridge’s effort sealed the deal Friday as her penalty shot to the bottom right found the net and was the deciding factor in second-ranked Gull Lake’s 1-0 victory over Fenton in the Division 2 state finals at Michigan State University’s DeMartin Stadium.
Gull Lake (25-1-1) outscored Fenton 4-1 in the shootout to claim the school’s third straight state title.
Junior Regan Troff picked up two saves in the shootout, including Fenton’s first and third shooters, and wound up making two saves throughout 80 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods for her team’s 15th shutout of the season.
“On one of those saves, I even closed my eyes and just made the save,” said Troff. “This was the second shootout that we’ve played (in the tournament) so I knew I had to make the saves.”
Fenton (15-5-3) became the first soccer program, boys or girls, from the Flint Metro League to reach a state final. The Tigers’ defensive schemes worked but could not provide a victory on the big stage.
“That’s what we have done all year. We play nine girls back (on defense) and that’s what worked well for us,” offered Fenton coach Matt Sullivan. “We got it to the shootout and you never know what might happen there.
“But we had a great run,” Sullivan said. “We represented the (Flint) Metro, our school and Genesee County well. This was a very close team. I have never been a part of anything like it. Sure, we are disappointed that we lost in a shootout. We lost to a very good team. I am proud of what our team was able to accomplish.”
Gull Lake controlled play throughout 100 minutes of open play. The Blue Devils held a 32-13 edge in shots including 10-5 with shots directly on frame. They Blue Devils held a 9-2 edge on corner kicks but could not solve Fenton keeper Abigail Quesnelle (10 saves) and the Tigers’ stingy defensive unit that surrendered 14 goals in 23 games.
“They are a very good defensive team,” said fourth-year Gull Lake coach Jeff Corstange. “They did a great job of clogging up the middle of the field. We had chances but couldn’t tuck one in. You hate to play in a shootout and lose. So once we got there I had faith that we could make our shots.”
Although Gull Lake’s boys soccer program had reached the semifinals with some state championship teams in the past, the Blue Devils were 0-1 in girls state finals games until the last three seasons.
“I think once we won the first one, it gave us some confidence,” said Corstange. “We’ve had a culture change here since I got here four years ago. The interest in soccer is really growing. I think being here and winning three straight is really helping us establish ourselves as a program.”