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:
The Kalamazoo Christian Comets and Black River Rats advanced to Thursday’s girls soccer Regional 13 final thanks to shutout victories Tuesday at Kalamazoo College. The eighth-ranked Comets defeated Covenant Christian 2-0 in the first game, followed by a 1-0 Rat win over 13th-ranked Michigan Lutheran.
In game one, the Comets got ahead with 5:20 remaining in the first half on senior Haley Balkema’s 17th goal of the season. Kalamazoo Christian kept the ball on the good side of the field for almost the entire second half, picking up their second goal with 16:56 remaining on sophomore Kayla Beebe’s team-best 28th goal.
“We made some adjustments at halftime, pushed our holding center-midfielders up to prevent their back-line from getting good solid clears.” said Comet coach Jay Allen.
“Things are clicking, goals are falling, and our defense is maintaining a good streak of no goals allowed,” added Allen. The win pushed their shutout streak to 14 games, last surrendering a goal in late April. Kalamazoo Christian improved to 19-2-3 with the win. Covenant finishes at 12-7-1.
In the second game, Black River’s Kayla Brothers got the lone goal with 23:46 left in the first half, adding to her school-record with 35 on the year. Solid defense, especially from senior Jasmin Bocanegra and goalkeeper Katie Banaszak, kept the Titans off the board. They had one last chance in the final two minutes, but Banaszak made a great diving save to preserve the shutout.
“Our defense has been solid all year,” said Black River coach Kyle Lawton. Jasmin’s been the leader back there and Katie seems to make big save after big save in key situations, just like she did tonight.”
Black River moves to 16-7-1 with the win and Michigan Lutheran takes their only loss, finishing 13-1-1. Black River and Kalamazoo Christian are both in the Regional final for the first time since 2015, when they met with a 2-0 Comet victory. You can listen Thursday at 6 p.m. from Kalamazoo College on the Slocum Sports Network and Michigan Sports Radio.
Listen back to both matches from Tuesday below:
KALAMAZOO CHRISTIAN VS COVENANT CHRISTIAN
BLACK RIVER VS MICHIGAN LUTHERAN
Listen live online Tuesday and Thursday through Michigan Sports Radio and the Slocum Sports Network to the Regional 13 girls soccer tournament from Kalamazoo College’s Mackenzie Field. Play begins Tuesday at 5 p.m. with the Kalamazoo Christian Comets against the Covenant Christian Chargers. At 6:30 p.m., the Black River Rats meet the Michigan Lutheran Titans. The winners meet at 6 p.m. Thursday with a trip to the final four at stake.
Based on the latest Division 4 Coaches Poll, Kalamazoo Christian is the top-rated team in the Regional. The eighth-ranked Comets first knocked off second-ranked Hackett Catholic 1-0 in the final seconds of last week’s district tournament, then dropped Lawton 5-0 in the district final, putting the Comets at 18-2-3 overall and giving them seven consecutive district crowns. Kalamazoo Christian hasn’t allowed a goal since April 22, putting up 13 consecutive clean sheets.
Covenant earned their first district title of the new millennium with three wins. After pounding Zion Christian 6-0 and Potter’s House 8-0, they edged Calvin Christian 1-0 in the district final. Their overall record is currently unavailable.
In the second game, Michigan Lutheran enters ranked 13th at 13-0-1 overall. The Titans edged Bridgman 2-1 and Lake Michigan Catholic 4-2 for their first Regional appearance since 2003. They tied in their opener back in late March and haven’t lost since.
Black River returns to the Regional round for the second time in three years, having been eliminated two years ago in the final by Kalamazoo Christian. The Rats are 15-7-1 with district victories over Watervliet (8-0), Bangor (4-2), and Saugatuck (7-0).
Listen live online to the Regional 13 action from Kalamazoo College through the Slocum Sports Network and Michigan Sports Radio. Tuesday sees Kalamazoo Christian and Covenant at 5 p.m., followed by Black River and Michigan Lutheran around 6:30. The winners meet Thursday at 6 p.m.