Preview: Seeking Storybook Endings
Preview: Seeking Storybook Endings
Boys Soccer
Posted Thursday, November 2, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We’ll have a first-time Division 1 champion this fall. It’s guaranteed. We could have first-time winners in Divisions 2 and 4 as well.

And if one of the four past champions playing in Saturday’s MHSAA Boys Soccer Finals wins again, they all have great stories too – be it the contenders looking for first titles since 1995 and 2001, an unranked power that made its way to the final day after a slow start, or the lone returnee from last year’s last day that missed out on another title falling by one goal.

Saturday's Finals kick off at noon and 3 p.m., with Division 1 followed by Division 4 at Rochester Hills Stoney Creek and Division 2 followed by Division 3 at Comstock Park. All will be broadcast live and viewable with subscription on MHSAA.tv, with audio available on MHSAANetwork.com. See below for glances at all eight finalists, and come back to Second Half later Saturday for coverage of all four championship games.

Division 1

DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank:
 20-2-4, No. 5
Coach: Gene Pulice, sixth season (80-24-19)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Drake Midgley, jr. M (11 goals, 10 assists); Ryan Pierson, sr. F (30 goals, 13 assists); Kevin Blossfield, sr. GK (0.12 goals-against average), Andrew Nicholsen, jr. GK (0.37 goals-against average).
Outlook: Detroit Catholic Central will make its first appearance in an MHSAA championship game in this sport, with Wednesday’s Semifinal the second time it had reached that level of the tournament (and second time in three seasons). This run has included wins over No. 18 Novi in the District Final and No. 12 Plymouth in the Regional championship game before the Shamrocks eliminated No. 4 and reigning champion East Kentwood to earn the Finals berth. Blossfield and Nicholsen have split time in goal and combined for 16 shutouts this fall.

WALLED LAKE CENTRAL
Record/rank:
 22-1-2, No. 15
Coach: Joel Sharpe, 21st season (221-170-41)
League finish: First in Lakes Valley Conference.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Ray Daniels, sr. F (17 goals, 8 assists); Alex Dalou, sr. M (10 goals, 14 assists); Nik Palafox, sr. M (16 goals, 15 assists), Ellton Pllumbaj, jr. F (14 goals, 10 assists).
Outlook: Walled Lake Central’s first run to a Final also has included its first Regional title in this sport, with a win over No. 10 Rochester in the Regional Semifinal and four shutouts over six total tournament games. In fact, the combination of junior keepers Brian Ostepanko, Jackson Bowers and Zaid Alsorachi has totaled 20 shutouts in 25 games this fall as they’ve saved nearly 93 percent of shots they’ve faced. A streak of 16 straight shutouts through the District Final tied the MHSAA record set in 2008, and the 20 total are tied for fourth most in one season. Dalou earned an all-state honorable mention last season.

Division 2

EAST LANSING
Record/rank:
 17-9-1, unranked
Coach: Nick Archer, 41st season (660-176-75)
League finish: Fourth in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue.
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), two runner-up finishes. 
Players to watch: Ansu Lebbie, sr. F (9 goals, 5 assists); Alden Metzmaker, sr. F (12 goals, 3 assists); Almir Celovic, sr. M (3 goals, 5 assists); Petrus Martens, sr. M (8 goals, 3 assists).
Outlook: East Lansing likely is the surprise of the tournament after starting this season 2-4-1. But another championship this weekend would be the program’s third in five years. The Trojans beat No. 14 Haslett and No. 15 Goodrich on the way to this week after avenging near the end of the regular season an early loss to Division 3 No. 7 Williamston. East Lansing has won nine of its last 10 including two games by shootout and a third in overtime.

HOLLAND
Record/rank:
 18-5-2, No. 8
Coach: Greg Ceithaml, 21st season (270-152-38) 
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Green.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Sam Accardo, sr. M; Jose Penaloza, sr. F; Owen Beird, sr. M; Daniel Arellano, sr. F. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Wednesday’s Semifinal win over No. 7 Coldwater was a first for the Dutch, coming off the second Regional title in program history. Holland heads into this historic final step riding a string of four straight shutouts and with a 26-2 scoring margin over six tournament games. The Dutch also eliminated No. 19 Holland Christian, in the District Final, and No. 4 Grand Rapids Christian in the Regional championship game. Arellano and Penaloza made the all-state first team last season, and Accardo earned honorable mention.

Division 3

FLINT POWERS CATHOLIC
Record/rank:
 20-2-1, No. 3
Coach: Tony Rowe, sixth season (100-26-11)
League finish: Third in Saginaw Valley League.
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2013), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Mason Smith, sr. M (17 goals, 26 assists); Bryan Lendzion, sr. F (26 goals, 12 assists); Brendan Tilden, sr. GK (0.45 goals-against average, 13 shutouts); Kyle Genord, sr. M (3 goals, 16 assists).
Outlook: Last season’s Division 3 runner-up just missed its third championship, falling 1-0 to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the 2016 Final. A number of last year’s contributors are back for another shot – Smith made the all-state first team last fall, while Tilden made the third team and Lendzion earned an honorable mention. Junior midfielder Blase Haynes also had 14 goals heading into this week, and junior midfielder Garret Delamielleure added seven goals and 12 assists. The Chargers downed No. 5 Detroit Country Day in the Semifinal after beating No. 9 Lansing Catholic in the Regional Final.

LUDINGTON
Record/rank:
 18-4-2, No. 16
Coach: Kris Anderson, seventh season (79-63-8)
League finish: Second in Lakes 8 Conference.
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2001, two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Ben Knoer, sr. M (24 goals, 4 assists); Caleb Schoon, sr. F (17 goals, 12 assists); Lucien Chasse, sr. M (9 goals, 9 assists); Kyle Wendt, fr. GK (1.30 goals-against average, 9 shutouts).
Outlook: Ludington shook things up with its Semifinal win over No. 4 Grand Rapids South Christian, which continued the Orioles’ longest run since that championship season of 2001. They have won 12 of their last 13 games, with only a loss to Division 4 No. 3 Muskegon Western Michigan Christian breaking up the streak. Knoer and Schoon have combined to score more than half the team’s goals, but they’ve had plenty of helpers feeding them opportunities; junior midfielder Will Flewelling also had nine assists heading into this week, and senior midfielder Lynn Richard had seven assists and eight goals.

Division 4

ANN ARBOR GREENHILLS
Record/rank:
 19-6-1, No. 5
Coach: Lucian Popescu, eighth season (139-60-14)
League finish: Third in Detroit Catholic League AA.
Championship history: Three MHSAA runner-up finishes (most recent 2010).
Players to watch: Zachary Zimmerman, jr. M (31 goals, 24 assists); Evan Marx, sr. M (17 goals, 13 assists); Matthew Pumphrey, sr. M (13 goals, 12 assists); Leo Fried, jr. GK (1.18 goals-against average, 13 shutouts).
Outlook: Greenhills also made the Semifinals last season before breaking out this week to reach its first Final since back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2010. The Wednesday win over reigning champion and No. 14-ranked Burton Genesee Christian was just the latest of an impressive string that included defeats of No. 6 Hillsdale Academy and No. 13 Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in the Regional and No. 12 Manchester to open the District. Zimmerman earned all-state honorable mention last season. Junior midfielder Neil Bazaj added 20 assists heading into the week.

KALAMAZOO HACKETT
Record/rank:
 19-1-2, No. 4
Coach: Ian Troutman, third season (record N/A)
League finish: First in Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 1995), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Brennan Creek, jr. M (40 goals, 37 assists), Aidan Gillig, jr. M (17 goals, 11 assists); Jacob Wurtz, sr. M (2 goals, 6 assists); Max Keenan, jr. F (41 goals, 14 assists).
Outlook: Hackett is back in the Final for the second time in three seasons; the Irish fell to Genesee Christian in a shootout in the 2015 championship game and then lost in overtime in the Semifinals a year ago. This time, Hackett downed No. 8 Buckley in the Semifinal, No. 11 Hartford in the Regional Final and No. 17 Kalamazoo Christian in the District Final. There’s plenty of firepower – the Irish have outscored six postseason opponents by a combined 34-3 and have 12 games with at least five goals. Creek made the all-state second team last season, while Keenan made the third team and Wurtz earned an honorable mention.

PHOTO: Flint Powers Catholic’s Mason Smith (10) works to elude a pair of Grand Rapids Catholic Central players during last year’s Division 3 championship game.


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