Unity Christian wins again in Division 3, 2-0 over Flint Powers
(PHOTO COURTESY: MHSAA)
East Lansing – Hudsonville Unity Christian redefined the term “bend but don’t break” on Saturday.
Being outplayed by top-ranked Flint Powers for virtually the entire 80 minutes, second-ranked Unity Christian scored a pair of counterattack goals and the Crusaders’ defense, led by Michigan State-bound center back Maddie VanDyke and junior goalkeeper Emily Ponstein, shut the door Powers, 2-0, to claim the MHSAA Division 3 state championship at Michigan State’s DeMartin Soccer Complex.
The title was the third straight and 10th overall for the Crusaders (22-2-1), which made their 13th appearance in a state final in the past 15 years.
“It never gets old,” smiled Unity Christian coach Randy Heethuis. “They are all special in their own way. This win was a little different because we won with defense while some of the others we were really offensive minded. We started the year 3-2 and I don’t know how many people thought we’d been back.”
Powers outshot Unity Christian 15-3 including 8-2 with shots directly on frame, and even held a 4-1 differential on corner kicks. Still, the Chargers — ranked No. 1 for all but one week during the season — could not solve Unity Christian’s backfield and stellar goaltending.
Ponstein recorded eight saves for her 15th shutout. She patrolled the box with authority. Ponstein and the Crusaders’ backfield, anchored by the stalwart VanDyke, yielded only seven goals in 25 games for a 0.28 goals-against average.
“We had some great teams and players over the years, like former Miss Soccer (Laura) Hayboer and teams that scored a lot of goals,” VanDyke said. “We knew at the beginning of the season we were rebuilding ourselves. But we came a long ways this season and ended it today with another state championship.”
Unity Christian scored on its first shot on frame with 11:55 remaining in the first half. Alaina VanZalen scooped up a posse ball just outside of the box and her low shot eluded Powers goalkeeper Madison Evans to the near post.
Unity Christian tacked on an insurance goal on its only shot attempt of the second half. Alexis Ponstein took the ball from just inside midfield, beat two defenders and dribbled nearly 50 yards before slipping a breakaway shot past Madison with 2:05 remaining.
Powers fell to 1-6 all-time in state finals games, including 1-4 against Unity Christian.
It wasn’t for a lack of effort by the Chargers, which increased their non-league schedule to play many ranked teams this season. Powers dominated every opponent in the postseason only to come up short on the final day.
“Hats off to Unity because their goalkeeper and defense was very good in this game. (Ponstein) played amazing. You would think that if you had (15) total shots that we would be able to slip one in,” Powers coach Art Moody said. “Soccer is funny. The team that scores the most goals obviously wins, not always the team that controls play and has the most shots. I thought we had a team that worked their (tails) off the whole season and we had a great effort today. If we scored one earlier, it would have change the (flow) of the game.”