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University Liggett defeats Montrose in shootout, wins D4 title

   | Dan Stickradt

University Liggett defeats Montrose in shootout, wins D4 title

(PHOTO COURTESY: MHSAA)

 

East Lansing – A great defense will often beat a great offense.

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett proved just that Friday during the Division 4 final at Michigan State University’s DeMartin Stadium.

The Knights, ranked No. 4 by the soccer coaches association, took high-powered eighth-ranked Montrose to a shootout before silencing the Rams, 1-0, to claim the school’s first title in girls soccer since 2005.

University Liggett (19-2-1) held a 4-2 edge on the penalty kicks to prevail. 

During the shootout, Montrose (23-4-1) was wide on its first two attempts. University Liggett’s Kelly Solak, Maddie Wu, Alexis Wagner and Kate Birgbauer converted their PKs in succession to seal the deal.

“It was probably my biggest (shot) of my career,” freshman defenseman Birgbauer said of her game-clinching kick. “I usually go to the same spot, usually. But I always watch the goalie’s feet and sometimes switch it up.”

University Liggett had defeated top-ranked Lansing Christian, 1-0, in the semifinals and the Pilgrims were the highest-scoring team in this division. The Knights took the bend-but-don’t-break approach against Montrose and kept the Rams off the scoreboard for 100 minutes of regulation and overtime periods.

“We are solid defensively, but we really worked hard on defense since last season and it made a difference,” University Liggett coach David Dwaihy said. “Our defense was great today. We did a great job of clearing the ball, especially on all of those corner kicks.

“What a job today. We got (to the state semifinals) last year and now state champions this year. I couldn’t be prouder of these girls.”

Both teams traded off eight shots in the game and both had four shots directly on goal. But neither could solve the defensive schemes.

“I thought it was two very even teams that played a great game,” Montrose coach Jason Perrin said. “We had our chances and so did they. We just couldn’t get one to go in. I don’t know how many shots we had, but I think 11 corners and didn’t get very many shots off those corners. That’s a credit to their defense.”

Montrose had 11 corner kicks, including sophomore Zoee Robbins’ header following a corner kick that was cleared off the goal line by University Liggett’s Teagan Cornell. 

Montrose also had a chance sail over the crossbar with 23 seconds left in regulation.

“We did a great job making it this far. I don’t think very many people thought we’d be here,” Perrin said. “Over the years we have always been in the same district with (Saginaw) Nouvel or Flint Powers (Catholic).  When we beat Nouvel in the district finals, I knew we had the talent to make a run. We came up a goal short.”

The Knights outshot Montrose 2-1 over the two 10-minute overtime periods to set up the shootout. 

“We were hoping it would go down to a situation where we deserved it. We didn’t play very well in overtime even though we had a goal called back. We knew that if we got to a shootout we would have a great chance,” Birgbauer said. “We’re good at penalty kicks.” 

It appeared University Liggett had taken took a 1-0 lead with 5:03 left in the second overtime, although the tally was called back when it was ruled the long throw-in to the box was untouched by any player. 

“I think that lit a fire under us a little bit,” Dwaihy said. “We weren’t generating a lot of chances and then when that was called back, I think it (re-energized) us a little bit. When we got to the shootout, it’s anybody’s game.”