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Lansing Christian defeats Kalamazoo Christian in a shootout to win D4 title

By: Dan Stickradt, June 17, 2017, 5:35 pm


Williamston – Lynn Cullens told her coach that she didn’t think that Lansing Christian would win a state title with her in goal this season.

The junior was wrong.

Thanks to some additional training and some confidence boosting from the Lansing Christian coaches, the top-ranked Pilgrims captured their first Division 4 title on Saturday at the Williamston Soccer Complex.

Lansing Christian posted a 2-1 victory over third-ranked Kalamazoo Christian, collecting a 4-3 triumph in the shootout to lift the Pilgrims to some new pioneer territory.

Lansing Christian (23-2-2) lost in the finals in 2011 and 2015, and also in the state semifinals three other times, including last year. 

More importantly, Cullens made a diving save in the shootout.

“I did say something to my coaches, but they worked with me for this,” said Cullens. “I just I just had to trust in God and everything would work out. I had to stop doubting in myself.”

Cullens made only four saves during regulation and the two 10-minute overtime periods, as Lansing Christian dominated play.

Kealeigh Usiak, Abby Lyon, Jessie Kruger and Eliza Lewis scored on their penalty kicks, with Lewis booting the tie-breaker in the shootout. 

“A few weeks ago, Lynn said that she didn’t think we could win with sing her as the goalie. We had faith in her and the coaches really worked hard with her (on stopping penalty kicks),” said Lansing Christian coach Joel Vande Kopple. “She ended up making a save in the shootout.”

Lewis converted the final shot for the Pilgrims.

“I was so nervous. I have never been in one of those before,” said Lewis. “I just knew I had to pick a place and shoot it towards that spot and we would win.”

The Pilgrims were ranked No. 1 all of last season before being stunned in the semifinals by eventual state champion Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett. Lansing Christian was not to be denied this time in its third trip to the finals.

“This is a program thing, really,” said Vande Kopple. “We had some people from the 2011 team her and some people from the 2015 team here. (In 2015) we made a run to the final which was somewhat unexpected. Then last year everyone thought we’d get here and we were upset in the semifinals. This year we got back here and I thought we’d played a great game. We almost had it won in overtime. I told them that we can’t given in a e up any late restarts and we did give up the late corner and they scored. But we got in done in penalties. No one likes to go dot a shootout and lose. That’s the way it goes. We were fortunate enough to win. But the credit to Kalamazoo Christian. They played a great defensive game and took us to a shootout.”

Lansing Christian outshot the Comets, 21-6, including 13-5 with shots directly on frame, and even held a 10-3 edge with corner kicks. Still, the half ended 0-0.

Lansing Christian finally broke the stalemate with 7:22 remaining in the first overtime. Sophomore Jackie Moore floated a long serve into the penalty box and sophomore Rilyn Ross flicked the ball over the hands of Kalamazoo keeper Allyson Kranstz and into the far corner of the goal.

Facing desperation, Kalamazoo Christian (20-3-3) made a final push and forced all 11 players up field on a corner kick opportunity. Freshman Lauryn Money volleyed in a corner kick from senior Meagan Laaksonen with 3:03 remaining in the second overtime. 

Krantz had 12 saves for Kalamazoo Christian, which recorded 16 consecutive shutouts heading into the finals.

“I think our defense is what got us here,” Kalamazoo Christian coach Jay Allen said. “We had 20 shutouts on the year and our defense was great all season. We gave it our best shot and just came up short. “I think once we got down 1-0, we saw they were a little tired, too, so we started to push it. We knew new once it got to the shootout that anything can happen.”