Whitehall’s Chris Saunders (left) kicks the ball upfield while Hart’s Derrek Broaddus pursues him during a WMC soccer game at Whitehall Monday. The Vikings won 2-0.
WHITEHALL — The Whitehall Vikings won the regular-season West Michigan Conference title Monday night by defeating Hart 2-0 in a de facto conference title game. Both teams entered the game unbeaten in the league.
Whitehall got off to a quick start, scoring twice in the first 13 minutes. The rest of the game was largely a midfield battle as neither team was able to gain control.
“We pride ourselves on coming out strong,” Whitehall coach Bryan Mahan said. “Whether we get a goal or not, we don’t want to give the other team a chance to get a foothold. I don’t think they were quite ready for that.”
“Whatever their game plan was, they have to change it because now they’re looking at a deficit right off the bat.”
The Vikings’ first goal came under three minutes into the game when Nick Rands found Chris Saunders with a centering pass. Saunders managed to get his foot on the ball and tap it past Pirates’ goalie Beto Moul for a goal that visibly took the wind out of Hart’s sails.
“It was the two things I hate the most,” Mahan said of the first goal. “It was a heel pass to a toe ball. (However) I’ve always told them, as long as it goes in the net, I do not care which anatomical structure you use to get it there.”
Andrew Jennings scored with 27:16 left in the first half to give Whitehall the two-goal edge. From then on, neither team was able to launch a sustained threat. Hart’s star scorer, Marcos Moul, who has scored 40 goals in consecutive seasons, found himself facing a quadruple-team in the back end as the Vikings determined that he would not beat them.
However, Moul still managed to get one bullet of a shot off that nearly changed the game. The shot came shortly after the Vikings took a 2-0 lead, and it was just within reach of Isaac Love, who made a diving stop to preserve the shutout. It was the last really good look Hart got at the Vikings’ goalkeeper, who made six saves.
“Making that save was huge,” Mahan said. “If that thing had been farther in the corner, he wouldn’t have touched it. It was a rocket.”
Mahan added that it was vital to keep the two-goal cushion, which kept the game from perhaps coming down to a last desperate rush at the net by the Pirates.
“Two goals is an ugly lead in soccer,” Mahan said. “It can slip away so fast because one goal by the other team and they can see the momentum shift.”
The win set Whitehall up with home-field advantage throughout the WMC tournament, which began Wednesday as the Vikings easily dispatched the eighth seed in the tournament, Oakridge. The Vikings rolled to a 10-0 win in a game that was stopped at halftime for the mercy rule.
Eight different Vikings pocketed a goal in the contest, with Ray Copley posting a hat trick. Copley has three hat tricks on the season and has scored multiple goals a total of seven times in 2012.
Also scoring for Whitehall were Saunders, Luke Westrate, Billy Wilson, Windsor Marecek, Isaac Love, Devin Schweigert and Jacob Kring.
The Vikings will host Montague Monday night in the conference semifinals, with the winner advancing to play Hart or North Muskegon in the finals Wednesday. The Vikings are in pursuit of their sixth consecutive league title.
“I think (that) is kind of cool,” Mahan said. “I don’t hear about that very often. We’ve got three great games to play, and then we set up for districts.”
Montague beats MCC twice
MONTAGUE — The Montague Wildcats, thanks to a scheduling quirk, faced Mason County Central twice this week and recorded victories in both contests.
Montague closed out its regular season with a 2-0 win over the Spartans. Nate VanGeison and Luke VanBoxel each scored in the second half for the Wildcats, with Eric Groppi recording an assist. Kaleb Cordle had five saves in net en route to a shutout. The win gave Montague the fourth seed in the WMC tournament, which by coincidence matched the Wildcats up with Mason County Central again in the first round.
The Wildcats defeated MCC again Wednesday afternoon, this time by a 4-1 margin. VanBoxel scored twice and posted an assist. Ethan Kennedy had a goal and an assist and Groppi scored a goal for Montague.
Montague, 3-0-1 in its last four games, will visit Whitehall Monday night in the WMC semifinals.
R-P wins 2
Reeths-Puffer’s soccer team keeps on rolling, as the Rockets have now won eight of their last nine after taking two victories this week.
The Rockets defeated Fruitport 2-1 on Monday evening, rallying from a 1-0 halftime deficit to secure the win. Reeths-Puffer controlled the offensive flow for most of the game, outshooting the Trojans 10-3. Drake Yarian and Cody Loss scored the Rockets’ goals and Daniel Sanchez notched an assist.
Reeths-Puffer blanked Kenowa Hills Tuesday for its third win in a row, using strong defense to record a 1-0 win over the Knights.
Brandon Gillikin scored the Rockets’ lone goal, coming in the first half. Reeths-Puffer again didn’t allow its opponent much offensive success as the Knights managed just four shots, all of which were saved by Rockets’ goalkeeper Troy Gilmore.
District brackets released
The MHSAA released the district brackets this week for the state socer tournament. District play will begin Monday, Oct. 15 and the finals will be held Saturday, Oct. 20.
Whitehall and Montague, participating in the District 47 tournament which the Wildcats will host, drew each other in a first-round game, which will be played at 4:30 p.m. on the 15th. After the Vikings and Wildcats tangle Monday in the conference semifinals, the district game will mark the third time in four weeks that the White Lake rivals will meet on the soccer field.
The winner of the Whitehall/Montague game will move on to face either Orchard View or Mason County Central at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17. Should Whitehall or Montague reach the finals, their opponent would be Ludington, Oakridge, Manistee or Shelby on Saturday, Oct. 20.
Reeths-Puffer will participate in the District 26 tournament hosted by Spring Lake. The Rockets drew the bye in the seven-team district, which puts them in the semifinals on Thursday, Oct. 18 against either Spring Lake or Muskegon. The kickoff for that matchup will be at 6:45 p.m. or 15 minutes following the first semifinal game.
Should the Rockets advance to the finals, they would play Coopersville, Fruitport, Kenowa Hills or Fremont at noon Saturday, Oct. 20.