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Gull Lake relies on experience, tenacious defense to defeat DeWitt, 1-0, in Division 2 semifinal

By: Jeff Chaney, June 9, 2015, 11:00 pm


   Grand Rapids – There is something to be said for experience when making a run for a state championship.

    In the Division 2 girls soccer state semifinals played at Grand Rapids Christian on Tuesday, Richland Gull Lake had all the experience and DeWitt had little.

     Playing for a chance to win their third straight state title, and with a roster that included 21 seniors and juniors, the Blue Devils did just enough to get by a young and pesky DeWitt team that has 17 freshmen and sophomores, 1-0.

     Gull Lake will try and win its third straight state championship when it plays Fenton on Friday at Michigan State University at 4 p.m. Fenton beat Trenton 1-0 in the other semifinal Tuesday.

     "They are young, his (DeWitt coach Jamal Mubarakeh) team reminds me of my team two years ago," Gull Lake coach Jeff Corstange said. "They are going to be (hard to beat) next year. And this game tonight, they will get some experience, but our experience, that is something we preached all week, that we knew they were young and we had experience. But they came out gunning for us."

    The young Panthers were ready for the two-time reigning champs, but one slip at the 28:36 mark of the first half cost DeWitt. And it was two seniors for the Blue Devils that caused the damage.

     After an almost perfect throw-in ball, senior midfielder Kirsten Taylor, often the fastest player on the field all night, took the throw in and raced up the right side of the field and made a great pass in front of the DeWitt goal.

     That’s when senior forward Amanda Pavletic took the pass and shot the ball past DeWitt goalie Brooklyn Holley.

     "Definitely, those two and our experience got us this win tonight," Corstange said.

     From there, the Blue Devils played a cautious and passive offensive game, but turned up the heat on defense to protect that lead.

     It worked.    

     "When we gave up the first goal, that took the momentum away from us," DeWitt coach Jamal Mubarakeh said. "But we came back and started fighting, and it is hard to come back and fight when you are down 1-0 against a quality team, but we kept fighting and playing with them."

     The Panthers did, but it seemed like the seasoned Gull Lake team knew exactly what to do with the ball, limiting DeWitt’s offensive chances. DeWitt only had one shot on goal all night, and that came late in the second half and sailed over Blue Devils goalie Regan Troff.

     "Winning the 50/50 ball and the second-chance ball hurt us today," Mubarakeh said. "And I don’t know why that happened because we are good at that."

     Gull Lake’s experience proved invaluable and now the Blue Devils go for a three-peat.