By Jim Evans
@jimevanssports on Twitter
On paper, Anchor Bay is favored to beat Lake Shore in a Division 1 regional semifinal game Tuesday night.
The teams meet at 5 p.m. at Swinehart Field in Utica.
But a soccer pitch is not made of paper.
And the game of soccer is not Tic, Tac Toe or Hangman.
"Strange things happen at this time of year," warned Kevin Grammens, the coach at Anchor Bay. "You can never take anything for granted."
Anchor Bay defeated Chippewa Valley 4-0 in a district championship game. Lake Shore dispatched Roseville 7-0 in its district title game.
Coach Grammens' Anchor Bay Tars will take a 17-1-4 overall record into Tuesday's game. The Tars finished second in the MAC Red with a 5-1-2 record.
Coach Dave Lount's Lake Shore team is 15-5-2 overall. They were 8-2-2 in the MAC Blue Division, good for second place.
"When you win a district championship for the first time, you go into the next round thinking `Hey, we've won a district and we'll be able to compete in that regional game.' Give credit to Lake Shore for winning its first district championship. Give them credit for beating Grosse Pointe South and finishing their opportunities against Roseville. This game is not played paper. You still have to play the game on the field and we are taking nothing for granted."
When coach Dave Lount's Lake Shore squad defeated Roseville 7-0 on Saturday, it was the first girls soccer district title in school history. Senior captain Shannon Marsh scored a goal in each half to lead the Shorians. Also getting goals were sophomores Kourtney McAdory, Andrea Tungul, Gabrielle Kelel and Hannah Smigielski, and junior Morgan LaForest.
In Anchor Bay's district championship win over Chippewa Valley, Rachel Russo, Carlie Barone, Kayla Polisano and Vanna Pratte each scored first-half goals and keeper Ally Gaunt earned her 14th shutout. The 17 wins ties a school record.
Lindsey Shira (two), Bri Rumps, Emma Streveler, Karina Arnold had assists.
Three of the Tars' goals came during a 13-minute stretch during the first half. They led 4-0 at intermission.
"Winning a district was one of our goals at the beginning of the year. It was our first since 2013. Our 2014 loss to Dakota in districts was a tough one. We out-shot them 16-2, and their first shot was an off-net corner kick. The second shot came with four or five minutes left in regulation, and it was a turnaround shot from about 25 yards out that hit the ball are went in," said Grammens.
His team eventually lost in penalty kicks.
"That was a tough loss for me personally. I took it hard. I blamed myself for not being able to finish that game, but I think some of our success this year can be attributed to that loss. I know I've become a better coach because of it," continued Grammens.
Pratte, who is now a senior center back, was a starter on the 2014 team. Emma Streveler and Russo were also on that squad. Anchor Bay certainly has had its share of success during that time. In their four years, the Tars have gone 57-13-15 and given up just 64 goals.
Streveler and Pratte are team captains.
"We've been very consistent defensively this year. The defensive effort of this group has definitely been our strength," said Grammens. "Also, we have been mentally resilient and that is something that gets overlooked. We've got outstanding leadership on the team."
He's got 13 seniors on the roster. Anchor Bay also has some very talented underclassmen.
"We have a nice blend of senior leadership. That, along with a youth movement, has helped push us along this year," continued Grammens. "We are taking it one game at a time. There really are not peaks and valleys. We are just playing the game."
In the second game at Swinehart Tuesday night, Troy and Ford will play. Game time is 7.
"Ford is peaking at the right time. They are a very talented team," said Grammens.
The winners from the semifinals will meet at 7 p.m., Thursday, in the regional championship game at Swinehart Field.