For the second time in three seasons, the Kalamazoo Christian Comets defeated the Black River Rats 2-0 to claim a Regional title and advance to the Division 4 semifinals. Thursday, the Comets had seven corner kicks in the first half and used one for the opening goal, as Haley Balkema scored off Meagan Laaksonen’s corner with 15:27 remaining.
“We worked on corners with Haley,” said Comet head coach Jay Allen. “On Tuesday, she missed two with her head over the net. Yesterday, we spent a lot of time working on corners and today she karate-chopped one into the back.”
Black River had two shots on goal in the first half and suffered a huge blow late in the first when top-scorer Kayla Brothers took a deflection to the face, keeping her out the rest of the game.
“We kept a shadow on her at all times. When she came out, that allowed us one more player to be able to attack,” said Allen.
57 seconds into the second half, a rocket from Lauryn Mohney deflected off the crossbar to Balkema, who finished for her second goal. The Comets then prevented the Rats from getting a shot on net in the second half and kept them almost exclusively on their own side of the field. The shutout gives Kalamazoo Christian 15 consecutive clean sheets dating back to April 22. They improve to 20-2-2 overall and are into their second semifinal for coach Allen, in his fourth season at the helm. He served as an assistant for their four state championships in the mid 2000’s and sees similarities between those squads and this one.
“It’s very similar. The same work ethic as the 2008, 07, 04 and 2003 teams,” noted Allen.
Black River ends the year at 16-8-1, matching their deepest postseason run. It was the final game for seniors Brothers, Jasmin Bocanegra, Danae Winia, Maggie Christie, and Ashlynn Seymour.
“Really good role models of what we want the program to be like,” noted Black River coach Kyle Lawton.
“K-Christian’s a really good team, we knew that coming in. I think they’ve got a good chance to win two more games,” added Lawton.
The Comets move to the semifinal Wednesday at 7 p.m. from Comstock Park High School against Muskegon Catholic Central, who won their Regional final in overtime 2-1 over Elk Rapids. You can listen live online to Wednesday’s match on the Slocum Sports Network and Michigan Sports Radio.
Listen back to Thursday’s Regional final below: