By Jason Wesseldyk
VICKSBURG—On paper, the Division 2 girls soccer regional final between Plainwell and Pinckney on Friday, June 9, looked like it would be a defensive battle.
After all, the teams had combined to allow just 18 goals all season.
Apparently, someone forgot to share that information with Kayla Baar, Alayna Eldred and their Plainwell teammates.
Baar and Eldred each scored a pair of goals to lead the Trojans to the easier-than-expected 6-1 victory.
The regional title was the first for 11th-ranked Plainwell since 2012.
“It’s great to see how the girls have pulled together this season,” Plainwell coach Garry Snyder said. “They’ve really been working hard for one another.
“Since we won the district title last week, the girls have elevated their game another level and are playing with so much confidence. It’s fun to see as a coach.”
Plainwell started the season 1-2-2, but has an unbeaten streak of 18 games (17-0-1) since that time.
“We’re definitely pulling together at the right time,” Snyder said. “We struggled early on. That’s a known fact. But we’ve got everyone together on the same page now. It’s been fantastic.”
Baar started the scoring for the Trojans, finding the back of the net eight minutes into the game.
Then, with about five minutes remaining in the first half, Eldred muscled her way past a couple of defenders for a one-versus-one with the goalkeeper. Eldred won that battle, placing the ball in the corner of the goal with the outside of her foot.
Pinckney’s Kailey Lambert made it a 2-1 game in the waning minutes of the first half, but that’s as close as the Pirates would get.
Baar added her second goal of the game with 27:19 remaining in the second half, followed by goals from Gaby Zugel (24:05 remaining) and Alex Thornton (14:08 remaining to make it 5-1.
Eldred closed out the scoring with her second tally at the 9:35 mark.
“Kayla has been super for us all year,” Snyder said of Baar. “She’s very talented, has great speed and is a tough competitor. When she and Laken (Whittington) link up, they are dangerous. If you choose to double one, the other will get you.
“And with (Eldred) coming into her own, we now have that triple threat.”
Defensively, Eliza Harris was in goal for the Trojans and continued her solid play.
“Eliza has been terrific all season,” Snyder said. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t get another shutout, but there’s not a lot Eliza was going to be able to on their one goal as that was a very well-struck ball.
“A lot of credit also has to go to our back three of Jaeger, Henckel and Conley. These girls are tough competitors. And then the defensive efforts from our midfielders make it very difficult for teams to create opportunities. Our midfielders put in a lot of work, winning balls and creating scoring opportunities on the other end.”
Snyder was pleased to see the adjustments his players made following their 1-0, double overtime win over Middleville in the regional semis.
“I was very happy with the way we came out started the game,” he said. “We learned a number of lessons from the semifinals game. We utilized the width of the field and possessed the ball.
“It was not as physical of the game as the semifinals, so that helped us maintain and control the game. The girls were focused and executed well creating chances.”
Pinckney, ranked fifth in Division 2, ended its season at 15-2-1. The loss was the first for the Pirates in 15 games.
“Obviously when you end it like this, it always hurts, but there’s always going to be an end,” Pinckney coach Sean Grace said. “This season was amazing. We went further than any Pinckney soccer team ever did. This team goes down as the best, and they deserve it.”