EAST LANSING, Michigan. As far as birthday gifts go, the two-foot Michigan state wooden figurine is a one-of-a-kind gift.
For Royal Oak Shrine Girls’ Football Coach Mark Soma, it was “the best thing anyone could ask for”.
With a big smile and sparkling eyes, Soma accepted the state championship trophy Friday at DeMartin Stadium in East Lansing after Shrine defeated Kalamazoo Christian 1-0 in the Division 4 state final on the day of the longtime coach’s 50th birthday.
Shrine’s Nora Tisco scored the only goal of the game 25 seconds into the second half thanks to a beautiful pass from Brigitte Druillard that allowed the junior striker to head the ball into the net before K-Christian keeper Elisabeth Netz could react.
“We had two or three matches in the first half that we didn’t finish and I told them at half-time, ‘I don’t care how it is in the draw, the main thing is that it is in the draw. Swallow it if you need to, but be hungry for the goal,” and that’s exactly what they did,” Soma said.
A PHOTO: See our gallery from the Division 4 state championship game
Friday’s game was a rematch of the 2019 state title match between Shrine and K-Christian which ended in a 4-0 victory for the Knights.
Drouillard had a goal and an assist in that game and once again played a pivotal role, ending her career with state titles and making Shrine second in program history.
“She’s special,” Soma said of the eldest, who heads to Clemson in the fall with an eye on the Tigers women’s soccer team. “She is able to play for us in any position on the field and she is a leader, she is a great student, she babysits my children, so I trust her in almost everything – on and off the field.”
K-Christian responded to the goal with a vigorous offensive effort, earning three corner kicks in the first seven minutes of the second half, but they were unable to break through the defenses of Shrine and goaltender Elena Gallagher.
It didn’t help that two of the Comets’ top offensive players — senior Madison Ling and Taylor Leonard — were battling knee injuries that kept the former out of the state semi-finals and the latter out of the regional championship round.
“We played with a lot of injuries and the injured girls really stepped up that,” Allen said. “You could say that we were only one step away. We had our opportunities, it just wasn’t supposed to be. They put on a fantastic game at the start of the second half and that’s football.”
K-Christian (19–6) churns out seven alumni from their statewide runner-up team, including four who played as freshmen in the 2019 championship game lost to Shrine.
Linebacker Ellie Butts was one of the four adults who made their second State Finals appearance and said the Comets’ veteran leadership and team camaraderie were the keys to getting them to the last day of the season again this year.
“We all have developed a strong bond through leadership and practice, and through pushing each other to do our best, not just in games but in practice as we all push each other. I think it had a big impact and gave us the momentum that brought us here.
“It was an amazing journey,” she added. “This is not a one-man team. There are a lot of talented people on this team, and when we can work together, then things really add up.”
While K-Christian will need to replace a few key players from the second-place team, the Comets also have a lot of talent returning, and Betts said she’s excited to see the next group continue to build on the four-runner tradition. before finishing in five seasons.
“Now it’s their turn to build on each other, push each other and keep doing the same things we do in practice to become even better because they have a bright future,” she said.
Like the Comets, Shrine (16-4-2) is producing several key alumni as well as some stellar juniors who will look to build on the program’s recent success, most notably Gallagher, who made two saves in her 10th shutout of the season. .
“It gives the young girls on our team an idea of what it’s like – the environment and everything – and that’s what we want,” Soma said. “We want freshmen to know that this is the day we should celebrate every year.”
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