BY DAN STICKRADT
HOLT — Sometimes soccer can come down to one big play. Okemos had a grand opportunity in overtime Wednesday and seized the moment.
The second-ranked Chiefs picked up a goal in the first overtime period and the defense made it stand in a 1-0 victory over fourth-ranked Rochester Adams in a girls soccer Division 1 state semifinal at Holt High School.
Okemos will play in its third state final at 12 noon Saturday at Michigan State University, going up against No. 8 Troy, a 2-1 winner over Plymouth Canton in Wednesday’s other state semifinal. Troy, playing in its ninth Final Four, was the state runner-up last season.
Adams, playing in its second state semifinal in three years, third in seven seasons and ninth overall in 23 seasons, finished with a 19-5-1 record.
“This is what we thought might happen,” said Okemos coach Brian Guggemos. “Adams just plays defense so hard that they don’t give you much time to a do anything. We had a couple of nice opportunities on cornerkicks and we were finally able to put one in.”
Applying pressure throughout much of the second half and first overtime, Okemos (23-1-1) broke the stalemate on its sixth of seven cornerkicks.
Ashton Miller’s cornerkick bent through traffic and Haley Crites headed home the shot from six yards out that deflected off the right goal post and just over the line with 7:35 to play in the first extra session.
“It was to the right spot,” said Guggemos. “And our defense and goalie played really good. (Our goalkeeper, Molly O’Connor played a great game against East Kentwood last weekend to get us to (overtime) and even though Adams didn’t have a lot of chances, she didn’t give them much. She’s one of the best goalies in the state.”
Okemos outshot Adams 9-8 overall, as both teams traded off only three shots directly on goal in the contest. The Chiefs did hold a 7-2 edge on cornerkicks — and the restarts proved to fuel the game-winner.
“This was a great game and two great teams. We felt that it might come down to one play and it did,” said Adams coach Aaron Donaghy. “Okemos is no joke. They are very good. They had all of those cornerkicks and they were able to score on one of them. That was the difference.”
Adams was missing three starters to injury and was unaccustomed to playing on real grass. But Donaghy said that there were “no excuses” and that his side lost to a very talented team.
“We made a nice run against this season. We were in our second semifinal in three years,” continued Donaghy. “We did have some chances. We pushed the ball up a few times in the second half, we just couldn’t get a good shot off. Okemos is a very good defensive team.”
Molly O’Connor pitched her 16th shutout of the season, making three saves for Okemos. Lexi Lewandowski made two stops in a losing effort for Adams.
Okemos will have to beat its second straight OAA Red Division team Saturday to claim their second state title.
“They have (Miss Soccer candidate) Irene Young and they were a state finalist last year,” said Guggemos. “We have our work cut out for us.”
Neither team could brew up a recipe of success in the first half, as both teams traded off only two shots each, one shot directly on goal. The defenses stood firm in producing a 0-0 stalemate at the half.
In the second half, not much changed, as Okemos held a 4-2 shots edge. Both teams had one goal called back due to offsides call.
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